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Dacorum Liberal Democrat Councillors Proposed to Amend the Borough's Budget to Strengthen Its Climate Change Measures

March 1, 2020 8:20 PM
Originally published by West Hertfordshire Liberal Democrats
CLLr Adrian England at Dacorum Borough Council

Cllr Adrian England Speaking at Dacorum Budget Meeting

In a motion to Dacorum Borough Council at its Budget setting meeting on 25th February, 2020, the Liberal Democrat Borough Councillors, without opposing any of the Conservative proposals, sought to amend the budget for the coming financial year by the addition of 10 items, mainly aimed at strengthening existing measures to mitigate Climate Change.

The motion was proposed by Group Leader, Cllr Ron Tindall and seconded by the Deputy Group Leader Cllr Adrian England.

They took note of the council's Medium Term Financial Strategy and only proposed new services and initiatives that could be paid for out of existing resources and reserves. The amendment implied an increase in Council Tax of £5.00 but they considered that the need to amplify the council's response to Climate Change more than justified this trivial per annum increase.

The maximum funding requirement over 2 years would have been £1.78 million and this would have been covered by the New Homes Bonus from the government, which the Concervatives were proposing to pay into the Dacorum Development Reserve. However, had the Lib dem amendment been accepted, there would dtill have been a £250k residual contribution into the Development Reserve.

General Fund 1-year expenditure initiatives.

  1. £100 k to fund new, one-off initiatives to improve air quality, particularly around schools, and the investment in more suitably located public access Electric Vehicle Charging Points.
  2. £50 k to fund a trial of 10 solar powered compactor litter bins which require less frequent emptying.
  3. £100 k towards planting more trees, which would not only sequester carbon dioxide during their lifetimes but would contribute to improving air quality.
  4. £120 k to fund four additional Planning and Environmental Enforcement Officers for a 1-year trial period.
  5. £100 k to fund a study of ways to improve the council's communication system including the telephone system.
  6. £700 k to add to the Climate Change Reserve which the Conservatives are establishing at £300 k to bring the total reserve to £1 million. This reserve would then be used to fund investment in appropriate carbon dioxide emission reduction measures over a 3-year period.

General Fund 2-year expenditure initiatives.

  1. £50 k p.a. to fund a part-time officer to co-ordinate the expenditure of Community Infrastructure Levy funds (these arise out of housing and office developments) by borough councillors and Parish and Town Councils
  2. £50 k p.a. to fund community facing sports and leisure projects for an intial 2-year trial.
  3. £80 k p.a. to increase the Clean, Safe and Green budget to improve the appearance of the borough by improving verge maintenance, graffiti removal and the clearance of overgrowing vegetation on paths.

Housing Revenue Account 1-year expenditure initiative

  1. An additional £1 million in the Housing Revenue Account for the introduction of energy saving measures across the DBC housing stock. To be financed by a 20 year-loan

Despite efforts to explain to the Conservative councillors the reasons, basis and funding of these additional items their group opposed the amendment with various degrees of scorn, derision and ignorant scaremongering.

Cllr Nick Hollinghurst, one of the councillors representing Tring West & Rural, and a long-standing member of the authority, told councillors that the then Housing Committee Chair had warned councillors 35 years ago that the increase in temperature would put more energy into the atmosphere resulting in stronger winds and more frequent gales. Likewise, the increase in sea temperatures would put more water vapour into the atmosphere. The effect of this would be more and stronger storms, increased rainfall and ever more frequent and ever greater floods.

Cllr Hollinghurst said that global warming was recognised over 60 years ago but far too little had been done to try to limit its negative effect. He said, "The predicted storms and floods are with us now. Our past inaction has led to the current Climate Emergency. We need to take significant action now - especially planting trees to soak up carbon dioxide - and limit the inevitable further temperature rises. This is why we have put forward these additional budget items. The Lib Dem amendment needs to be supported. We owe it to our grandchildren to take action now."

Sadly the Lib Dem amendment was defeated by 28 votes against and 19 votes in favour as the Conservatives voted for for their own budget, which, though taking some token measures towards carbon dioxide reduction was really little better than business as usual.