Campaigners tell council to ‘get a move on’ after claims Southend will lead the way on climate change

Climate change campaigners have said Southend Council needs to stop talking and start acting on climate change after councillors declared an ambition to be “exemplar” to the rest of the country.

Discussion on what actions the council will implement to reach their stated goal of having the whole borough be carbon neutral in just over 10 years took place during a scrutiny meeting on Monday night.

Conservative councillors questioned why the council was due to take up to a year to put together an “action plan” to begin work and said there was surely a way to speed up the process.

Councillor Carole Mulroney, who oversees environment, defended the timeline, saying that as the plan in compiled the council will be installing extra electric car charge points and stepping up campaigns against plastic waste.

She continued: “We will be producing an action plan well within the 12 month commitment drawing on the work already underway or programmed and adding further initiatives, seeking grant funding and budgeting where necessary.

“We will have to be bold and to take difficult decisions and it will cost so that is why we will be lobbying Government through the Local Government Association.”

To be successful in lobbying for extra funds she added that the borough would need to be “exemplar” to others.

But a founding member of Southend Extinction Rebellion, Alicia Hegarty, said the council had not given any indication of the steps they will actually take to achieve their goal and a climate emergency declaration is no good if it is just “lip service”.

“We are moving into our last decade now, we were saying last year that we had just 12 years left and now at the end of 2019 we’re looking at just ten years – one decade – if they are going to mess around for 12 months and not be serious then we’ll have nine years, the clock is ticking,” she said.

“It is no good declaring a climate emergency and then there not being any action. We have not been invited to any form of discussion despite wanting to be part of a community group where we can put forward ideas.

“I spoke to a potter who told me he had approached the council to ask them to help putting up solar panels where he would use the electricity once a fortnight for a kiln and the rest of the time put it back into the grid but he didn’t get anywhere.

“There are people out there who have ideas and want to help but we need the council to listen and invite us in.”

She added that Colchester and Chelmsford councils have already consulted with community groups and “if Southend want to be a leading light, they need to get a move on”.

Essex County Council announced on Tuesday that they would be creating a cross-party commission on climate change to look at environmental initiatives and pledged to remove single use plastics from their buildings, support residents to purchase solar panels and invest £50million a year in bus transport.

Steve Shaw

Local Democracy Reporter