Bedford’s Mayor feels the heat over climate change action

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climate committee

The heat was turned up on Bedford’s Mayor, Dave Hodgson over whether the council was doing enough to do its bit to tackle climate change.

Mayor Dave Hodgson and his deputy, Cllr Charles Roydon, were put in the hot seat at Monday’s meeting of Bedford Council’s climate change committee.

Clapham parish councillor Eric Cooper was among a dozen members of the public at Borough Hall, who opened the assault.

He accused the borough of having policies that were five years old, despite declaring a climate emergency in March.

Read: Bedford Borough Council declares ‘climate emergency’

But the Lib Dem mayor was having none of it. “We were doing a lot before declaring a climate emergency,” he said. “We have cut our carbon by 62 per cent.”

Mayor Dave said he had been aware of climate change since 1979, and had been pressing the issue for a decade in office. He said the council has a good track record of action, and had won awards for its work.

Cllr Cooper went on the attack again, accusing the council of “greenwash” in its commitments.

The committee was discussing a 10-point action plan on the environment, which includes phrases like “where possible to do so”, and “where appropriate”.

Cllr Cooper said this meant the committee was more a “talking shop”.

But the mayor and Cllr Roydon (Lib Dem, Brickhill) said that on items like improving energy efficiency, the council did not want a blanket policy which would commit the council to spending money on buildings that they might then knock down.

And on investing in green companies, the council’s current policy is to maximise its income from investments, which then help to pay for council services.

Cllr Lucy Bywater
Cllr Lucy Bywater (Green Party)

The point about wording was picked up by Cllr Lucy Bywater (Green, Castle) who said that “we have 11 years to enact the change we need. The urgency does not come across.”

And Labour leader Cllr Sue Oliver (Kempston North) said she thought the list of 10 items was a “bit gimmicky”.

“What happens if someone comes up with an 11th item?” she asked. “Is there something you have as an 11th item but was left off?”

And after the meeting Cllr Bywater said her 11th item would be to hold a citizens’ assembly held in the borough, to bring people into the conversation.

Cllr Bywater told the Bedford Independent, “The Council have done some good work so far, on improving energy efficiency for example, but I don’t get a sense of the necessary urgency on emissions reductions.

“Focusing on the council’s own property and fleet and so on is a start but it needs to embrace the whole Borough to get us on track to transform.

“And engaging with local people and helping them to see the wider benefits of really tackling carbon emissions is really vital. A citizens assembly would help us on that path.”

by Local Democracy Reporter, David Tooley