'Government claims to want climate action – but still cuts council funding'
Cllr Adam Harrison Camden Council
- Credit: André Langlois
In Camden, emissions have come down by 43% since 2005, and we are continuing to push as hard as we can.
As part of our work to get to net zero by 2030, we recently switched the council’s own electricity supplies to 100% renewable, and are rolling out LED streetlamps across the borough, which has already saved money and carbon.
The government rightly gives its support for more walking and cycling – but at the same time plans £27bn of new roads across the country (incidentally, all while ring-fencing London car-owners’ vehicle excise duty so that that income is forbidden to be spent on maintaining roads within the capital).
The government claims to want local authorities at the heart of climate action – but continues to pile yet more financial cuts onto the 50% we’ve already endured since the coalition took office in 2010.
And while many Conservative MPs see the real need to work with councils, we still have too few powers.
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In response to the NAO, the government has said it is "modernising the planning system" – which is bizarre, as its proposals will mean residents will have no right to be consulted on planning applications and councillors will no longer be able to vote on them. This is a huge concern in Camden.
As well as restoring councils’ funding so that we can deliver our services to their maximum effect, the government must cease chopping and changing its other funding opportunities. It created the Green Homes Grant vouchers for homeowners but then withdrew it.
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For local authorities, it has proposed support to decarbonise social housing – 30% of homes in Camden – but we are yet to see the full amount.
New powers for councils to borrow to invest – and at the same time create the new jobs and skills to make the Green Transition a reality – are now urgent but still missing.
Despite our political differences, I believe the government, if not all Tory MPs, understand the existential risk the climate emergency poses. I hope the NAO’s warning galvanises real change in the relationship between Whitehall and town hall.
Cllr Adam Harrison (Lab) is Camden Council's cabinet member for a sustainable Camden.