Decision Maker: Council
Decision status: Recommendations Approved
Is Key decision?: No
Is subject to call in?: No
Written question to the Leader of the Council from Councillor Uttley:
(1) The Climate Emergency was declared on 17th July and notwithstanding the need for planning, there has not, as yet been what could be called an “emergency” reaction.
At the last Full Council, Liberal Democrat Councillors queried the cabinet on climate emergency action taken by the Council and were offered a general confirmation that work was ongoing towards this. For the Council to show that it is taking the climate change emergency seriously, it is important that initial benchmarks and metrics are put in place, so that we can evidence our progress towards net zero.
(2) Therefore, in seeking to ensure that the Council and the public are as well informed as possible, both of:
A) the current position of Dacorum in relation to Climate Emergency metrics, and
B) the actions being taken by the Council as first steps to prevent the Climate Emergency
this written question tries to identify some important potential routes the Borough could take:
3) Carbon emissions data collected by the government
for road transport, domestic, commercial, agricultural and
industrial emissions show that for the Dacorum area, per capita
carbon emissions as calculated in 2017 currently stand at 4.4 tons
These metrics, although useful, take a long time to collect and as such do not allow for real time tracking of progress. They also do not include estimates for carbon emissions which relate to individual action, such as that embedded in our dietary and transport choices.
(4) However, this effort from central government could be usefully supplemented by DBC through setting our own metrics, which measure local progress in areas such as:
A- energy efficiency of council owned properties (improved insulation and use of LED lighting);?
B)- carbon emissions relating to the provision of heat and power to those properties, (switch to efficient equipment, from Gas to Electricity where environmentally economic to do so, and switch to renewable tariffs);
C)- Waste and recycling (improvements in proportion of waste recycled in the UK, and reductions in overall waste created) ;
D)- trees (notional CO2 sequestered by trees in Dacorum, reflecting the net number of trees planted);
E)- habitat (notional CO2 sequestered by habitat improvements across Dacorum).
F)- Carbon emitted by council owned and contractor transport (switching to electric vans, buses and other commercial vehicles);
G)- Passenger figures for buses on local routes (to train station or town);
(5) we should define metrics (or use those already in place such as SAP for energy rating residential properties) which will allow DBC to take regular stock of and track our progress towards net zero in 2030, with the reasonable expectation that these local improvements would then be reflected in the high level government data for Dacorum.
(6) Therefore will the Leader of the Council explain:
a. What action is being taken to establish climate emergency metrics such as those listed above?
b. What structures have been set up to undertake the urgent tasks needed to respond to the emergency?
c. Whether the Cabinet will support the setting up of a cross-party task and finish group to set the metrics and performance measures.
d. Whether the Cabinet will agree that these metrics be used by the O&S committees to help the Council maintain momentum in moving towards net zero?
e. When will the appropriate O&S committees be given the opportunity to consider what steps the council has taken to respond to the emergency?
Councillor Williams said he took the presumption that the question appeared to suggest we hadn’t reacted quickly enough to the resolution it passed on 17th July which he took issue with. He also felt that the Council didn’t wait until 17th July to take action and felt it would be useful to list some of the steps they had already taken. He drew attention to how energy efficient the Forum and Maylands Business Centre were and how these buildings had been planned for and worked on for several years. We introduced flexible working and considered the environmental impact of people travelling to work. A sustainability regime for the Old Town Hall. Even minor things such as DBC lamppost bulbs being transferred to LED lighting. The Local Plan will incorporate the maximum level of sustainability measures that can be enforced with national guidance. The council house new build programme and making existing council houses more efficient. We are members of the Herts Warm Homes Scheme and Herts Sustainability Forum. Clean, Safe and Green have moved away from petrol powered equipment on to battery operated where possible. We have committed to planting 1000 trees by the end of next year. He has asked officers since July to look at our energy contracts and we are moving towards an entirely renewable green energy provision for our electricity and to provide carbon offset for some of our gas consumption. We buy our electricity 12 months in advance so the change of contracts would be from October.
He then said he would answer each question at a time:
6a) We are considering the use of SCATTER (Setting City Area Targets and Trajectories for Emissions Reductions) developed by Manchester University, the Tyndall Company and Nottingham and Manchester City Councils – as the means of establishing both the Council and Borough wide baseline position on CO2 emissions and the metrics to be used going forward.
6b) At Officer level the work is being led and sponsored by Mark Gaynor, supported by Mark Brookes and Ben Hosier, and the Corporate Sustainability Working Group is being refashioned to focus on the Climate Emergency. An Action Plan will be put together early in the New Year. This is a priority for every service within the Council. A Climate Change Officer will be appointed in the New Year to bring specific expertise in.
6c) he said it wasn’t their intention to set up a cross-party task and finish group because they don’t feel it is necessary.
6d) the metrics established by the baseline work and the Action Plan will be made available to OSCs to ensure both involvement and scrutiny.
6e) on completion of the Action Plan in the New Year.
The Mayor advised Councillor Uttley that she could ask three supplementary questions.
Councillor Uttley referred to the point about changing energy suppliers to green energy and asked if that was for council buildings only or for council properties as well. Councillor Williams advised it would only be for properties that we’re responsible for contracting energy for, such as sheltered accommodation and The Forum.
Written question to the Portfolio Holder for Housing from Councillor Tindall:
At a time when the Domestic Abuse Bill is awaiting the reconvening of Parliament to complete its passage to becoming an Act, and with all indications that the cancer of domestic abuse has not weakened in communities across the UK, I should be grateful if you would explain why funding of the Hemel Hempstead Refuge has been withdrawn which will mean it will close its doors to victims seeking help on 20th January 2020.
Councillor Griffiths explained that this relates to a county wide refuge provision that was awarded by HCC to Safer Places. When the contract was awarded Hightown refused to allow Dacorums refuge building to be adopted as part of the contract, this left us without a Dacorum refuge. We engaged Hightown and agreed to ensure the building remained open, however it was stipulated by Hightown that they would only use the building for low level Dacorum cases. Unfortunately most of our cases are of a high level and we are therefore unable to access, meaning there is no refuge provision being provided in our area. Hightown have been engaging with us regularly and have been in discussions with HCC about alternative use of the building which would provide them with a greater income. Hightown wanted a commitment from DBC for the next two years that we would continue to fund the support worker. Due to low level of numbers assisted through the accommodation, DBC did not feel this was viable to extend. It is important to know that the HCC Safer Places contract are in the process of purchasing the property in the Dacorum area and DBC may move to out of area refuge placements. In line with the Domestic Abuse bill and the new duties are likely to be implemented under guidance, DBC will be in partnership with the Community Safety Team and will be undertaking a review of Domestic Abuse provision in the Borough.
Publication date: 28/01/2020
Date of decision: 27/11/2019
Decided at meeting: 27/11/2019 - Council