Self-identified dinosaurs and Luddites at Bedford Borough Council are threatening a “rebellion” if paper is banned at meetings.
Council chiefs are plotting to stop printing paper copies of agendas and background information for their meetings by the end of September, but some elected members are prepared to dig their heels in.
Calling herself “a bit of a dinosaur”, the council’s Labour group leader, Cllr Sue Oliver (Kempston North) said, “If you just impose this, the shutters will come down.”
Speaking at Bedford Borough Council’s climate change committee on Monday, she added, “I have received no training with the laptop, I do not know how to use the damn thing. You’ve got to help people with training a lot more. Training is the key to this.”
And Cllr Stephen Moon (Cons, Great Barford), who said he was “speaking as a Luddite” said he uses paper and always has done.
“September 2020 is pushing it,” he said, adding, “I broadly support it, without necessarily welcoming it.”
But that riled up Cllr Charles Roydon (Lib Dem, Brickhill), the deputy mayor and elected head of environment, highways and transport, who went on the attack.
“£20 a pop for a paper copy of an agenda is just not acceptable,” he boomed. “If we don’t lead the way on climate change we will never get there.”
The council wants to be carbon neutral by 2030 and Cllr Roydon said it had to take action because of the “climate emergency”.
And even though agenda printing makes up a tiny proportion of the thousands of tons of carbon that the council needs to save to hit its target, Cllr Roydon sees it as a symbolic effort.
“Climate change is an emergency, we have to take action,” he said.
And, in a comment that fired up his opponent, he added, “If you don’t do it, you should get someone else to be a councillor.”
Cllr Oliver replied, “There will be a rebellion if you try to impose it. You can’t say you can’t be a councillor if you can’t use a computer.
“You should ask members what the hurdles are, that’s the way to do it. If you just say ‘like it or lump it’, it will get resistance.”
Some 20 out of the council’s 40 councillors (50 per cent) still exercise their right to request paper copies of agendas. This cost the council £6,786.91 in the last 12 months.
Cllr Jake Sampson (Lib Dem, Newnham) said this was like flushing money “down the toilet”. He added that he knew councillors who had paper copies of the agendas but did not even read them.
“We need to push to bring more people on board,” he added.
At the end of the debate, and to the surprise of Mayor Dave Hodgson, the councillors voted unanimously to proceed with the plan.
by David Tooley, Local Democracy Reporter