South Kesteven District Council Environment Overview and Scrutiny Committee recommend that Climate Action Strategy is adopted despite concerns over low public engagement numbers
A strategy to reduce the district’s carbon emissions has been discussed, with councillors concerned that it has not received enough public engagement.
Yesterday (Tuesday), South Kesteven District Council’s Environment Overview and Scrutiny Committee discussed a revised Climate Action Strategy, which sets out aspirations to reduce carbon emissions and adapt to the impacts of climate change.
Although the report was supported by many, some councillors raised concerns after the strategy was put out to public consultation, receiving just 175 responses from across the district.
Councillor Patsy Ellis (Green), joint cabinet member for environment and waste, said that the consultation over the strategy document, which took place over four weeks in July, had been “extremely constructive”, and that there was “broad support” for the eight themes in the strategy.
SKDC made a formal cross-party declaration of climate emergency in September 2019, with the first Climate Action Strategy document presented to the committee in March of this year.
The strategy document will be followed by a Climate Action Plan, which will outline the proposed and ongoing projects to combat climate change in the district.
Councillor Graham Jeal (Con), leader of the South Kesteven Coalition Group, blasted “the brass neck hypocrisy of this administration for bringing forward a climate change updated strategy”, as he referenced tweets from the Grantham Independents of SK Twitter account.
One of the tweets mentioned by Coun Jeal accused Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, of “scaremongering" after he shared the front page of the Evening Standard which read “who will stop the earth burning?”
Coun Jeal added: “The reality is this administration is propped up by the best organised climate denial group in the area and yet they are bringing us an update to our climate change strategy.
“There’s lots of these tweets about climate change denial that sit at the heart of this administration.”
He compared the 175 responses to the almost 1,500 responses received when the proposal for a Grantham Town Council was put to public consultation.
Coun Jeal said that there had been “no cross-party involvement” in the strategy’s public consultation, but did note that it was more difficult to consult with the public over summer.
“We’re talking about an issue that effects literally everyone, our children, our parents. This should have been the most replied-to consultation that we’ve ever done,” he continued.
“We’re in danger of damaging the environmental movement here by making policy that doesn’t involve all areas of the community.”
He called for the strategy to be put back out to consultation, as it was “too important to be written off as another consultation where we get a few dozen people support us”.
Councillor Murray Turner (Lib Dem) said that businesses needed to be given a voice on this, adding that it was "a bit odd” that the opposition should criticise the emergence of this report “when we all agreed it prior to the elections in May”.
Councillor Paul Martin (Con) said: “We are not taking this seriously enough. I run a survey business. Based on 175 responses, we wouldn’t even publish this. It’s not enough.”
He agreed with Coun Jeal about some of the tweets from the Grantham Independents of SK account, adding “it’s terrible stuff”.
Chair of the committee, Councillor Ian Selby (Ind), leader of the Grantham Independent Group, said that he “had not even read” the tweets being mentioned, adding “they are nothing to do with me whatsoever”.
Councillor Tim Harrison (Ind), said he found Coun Jeal’s “indignance a bit laughable really,” before referencing the opposition leader’s recent column in the Journal.
Responding to the comments made over the Grantham Independents of SK Twitter account, Coun Harrison said the “tweets could be written by anyone as there are over 150 people in that pre-election Twitter group.”
Coun Harrison did agree with Coun Jeal’s point about the low number of responses, saying that “if we’re going to push this through, we should have the majority of the people in the district responding to this, to get a factual report of how the people feel”.
Councillor Charmaine Morgan (Ind) said that climate change strategy needed to be added to SKDC’s planning policy and corporate plan. She also agreed that the number of respondents did “seem very low given the importance of this”.
After an amendment proposed by Coun Morgan, it was unanimously agreed that the committee recommend to SKDC’s cabinet to adopt the strategy, but agreed to engage more broadly with the wider community ahead of the creation of an action plan.