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Environment a priority say Newcastle Liberal Democrats

February 13, 2018 11:15 AM

City logoNewcastle City Council dropped Environment and Sustainability as a priority at the change of administration in 2011, replacing 7 years of rapid progress with 7 years of drift.

In particular, there is a crisis in the waste recycling system leading to potential contractual penalties of almost £750,000 per annum according to the Leader of Council.

The Clean Energy Strategy is almost 12 months overdue.

Lib Dem Environment lead Cllr Griff Kane said the Council meeting on 7th February : "The environment is a priority for all who live, work and socialise in this great City and it has a positive impact for local residents, for their health and wellbeing and for the local economy;

We have a duty to reduce the number of people who die as a result of poor air quality.

The Council must start showing leadership in Environment and Sustainability again.

We believe the Council should

Reinstate a commitment to Sustainability as a top tier priority for the Council.

Welcome the work of the Newcastle Waste Commission and reinstate the commitment to 'Zero Waste' that drove change in the period 2004-2011.

Reiterate support for a zero carbon city for 2050 and accelerate the publication of the overdue Clean Energy Strategy including interim targets.

Create plans that reduce air pollution in the city in partnership with the community.

Write to the relevant local government Minister seeking an urgent and fundamental review of funding, both to increase the funding available and to ensure distribution of funding is fair and based on need rather than the current system which disproportionately disadvantages councils such as Newcastle."

In support, Deputy Leader Cllr Wendy Taylor said :

I was pleased to see a motion on the Council Agenda entitled Environment a Priority. We can all agree that the environment is a priority for everyone who lives works or socialises in Newcastle, but apart from the title, most of this motion is just a bad joke. We are told that the Council demonstrates its commitment to the environment through many activities and significant investment, but what examples are given to justify this claim

Firstly Cllr Kemp suggests that providing 850 larger capacity litter bins is improving the service- I think it would be hard to find even one resident of my ward who would agree with this- instead I get complaints about overflowing bins, infrequent emptying and several reports of rats-a casework issue I almost never used to receive. Just yesterday I received a complaint from the Eco group at St Francis Church about the deterioration of the tram track due to lack of bins and a further complaint about rats

We are then told that continued review and roll out of the communal bins provision in back lanes has made a difference- true- the difference is a large increase in contaminated recyclate, which is costing the Council almost £750,000 a year.

We are also told of a commitment to improving the quality and volume of recycling and the need to focus on contaminated recycling waste, yet in spite of reassurances that communication problems have been resolved, just this week I've had several further complaints about black bin caddies going missing and not being replace. In addition, the proposed increased charge for collecting garden waste will actually decrease the quality and volume of recycled waste. Labour's behaviour change campaigns have so far made very little difference

Just out of interest I thought I'd check on the portfolio report I presented to Council in 2010, after the Liberal Democrats had been running the Council for 6 years.

What were our achievements that year?

  • We'd launched the Newcastle Declaration on Climate Change with ambitious targets on renewable energy, reducing waste, zero carbon homes, low carbon transport, reducing waste and reducing energy consumption and eradicating fuel poverty
  • We'd achieved the Forum for the Future's Most Sustainable City title
  • We'd done work through the carbon route map and Climate Change Strategy towards achieving the targets of the EU Covenant of Mayors and the 10:10 campaign
  • We'd achieved the Carbon Trust Standard certification
  • We'd rolled-out of recycling to flats
  • We were rolling -out 20 mph speed limits in residential streets
  • Worked to help develop and grow the Commonwheels car club
  • Worked to improve cycle routes, particularly in the city centre
  • Introduced Electric vehicle charging points and use of electric vehicles
  • introduced an Energy Champions initiative challenging a representative from different sections or buildings within the Council to reduce their energy consumption with support from the Energy Centre
  • We were loaning out smart energy meters to help people reduce their energy use
  • 'No Power Hour' had taken place in the city centre and in seven schools. encouraging children to spend an hour a day without using electricity
  • The introduction of the brown and blue bins the blue and brown bin led to household waste recycling and composting reaching 46% for 2009-10,
  • We were making progress on a freight consolidation centre to bring goods into the City in smaller electric vehicles, instead of large delivery lorries.

And these are just the highlights from the 26 page report.

Of course the reduced finances cause difficulties, but many initiatives will actually save the Council money. But there is a lack of ambition and a lack of focus from the ruling group.

Lord Mayor as Cllr Kane has made clear that since taking charge in 20111, the Labour administration replaced 7 years of rapid progress on tackling green issues with 7 years of drift, confusion and mismanagement and Liberal Democrat Cllrs will certainly not be supporting this weak and uninspiring motion.