This is a budget which contains eight pages of cuts, some of which may benefit the environment and some of which may lessen the borough’s capacity to address the climate emergency, yet there is no sense that either of these outcomes are central to their planning.
We are rapidly approaching two years since we unanimously declared a Climate Emergency, and actions speak louder than words.
Whilst this vital area of activity isn’t explicitly included in the cuts, it’s not included in the revenue budget allocations either.
We badly need a joined-up, forward-thinking approach so that short-term financial decisions don’t prevent us from achieving our medium and long term aims, or store up more problems for the whole community down the line.
As we saw recently with the Low Traffic Neighbourhood proposals, which were resoundingly rejected by residents in Clewer and Dedworth, one-off central government grants tend to come with very specific criteria and we may not, as a community, want what they entail.
We need to offer more residents ‘carrots’ as well as ‘sticks’, for example the ‘sticks’ of increased parking charges have not been matched by the ‘carrots’ of frequent local bus services to encourage their use. Achieving carbon neutrality can’t just be a lifestyle choice for the affluent. We make progress when lots of people make small changes.
We need to invest to earn if we are to increase the borough’s renewable energy generation capacity tenfold by 2025. We need to leverage the Royal Borough’s name in offering group buying schemes for green energy, for solar panels and batteries, for rainwater harvesting. These schemes are being rolled out by other councils across the country. Becoming carbon neutral can be self-funding or could generate income in the long term, but we need to plan for that to happen.