We all want to do more to protect the environment: as individuals, as part of the organisation we work for, or for our community.
So when Greens found £190,000 to pay for more council capacity to work on reducing emissions, protecting and enhancing wildlife and wider sustainability work, we expected that this would be welcomed and swiftly acted upon by the Labour council administration.
Especially as Labour supported our budget amendment that provided the extra cash in February this year.
Unfortunately, despite the council having unanimously agreed to declare climate and biodiversity emergencies not long ago, following a lead by the Greens, very little seems to have done with this extra money in the intervening eight months.
As the author of the budget amendment, I was naturally interested in progress in recruiting the promised new staff and developing projects.
So I asked a question about this at a meeting of the full council on Thursday 24 October.
The answer from the chair of the Environment, Transport and Sustainability Committee frankly shocked me.
I had to check the webcast recording to confirm that what I was hearing was the same or very similar to discussion papers in March 2019 on the possible use of extra funds towards sustainability work.
So eight months on and no progress. No new staff were in place or projects started.
Meanwhile, our council ranks 252nd out of 339 councils in a list of climate-friendly councils, according to Friends of the Earth.
And our council’s published Sustainability Action Plan covers the period from 2015 to 2017.
In the context of the environmental challenges we face, that’s unacceptable.
The money is there as agreed by council eight months ago. The need for urgent action is clear to all of us.
The need for staff resource is evident, after Labour and Conservatives in opposition slashed the sustainability team by £150,000 when Greens were in power.
There is absolutely no excuse for sitting on this money and doing nothing.
Nationally, Labour and Conservatives talk the talk on the environment. Locally, their action – or in this case inaction – speaks louder.
Ollie Sykes is a former member of Brighton and Hove City Council and the Greens’ parliamentary candidate for Hove.
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