Dorset Council – Climate and Ecological Emergency Strategy

Our Climate and Ecological Emergency strategy was published in September last year and was recently taken to public consultation. Under the ‘Making it Happen’ chapter of the document, there is a section called ‘Funding the response’ that I strongly encourage everyone to read if they haven’t done so already. The draft strategy remains available on the website.

Dorset Council will need to invest many millions of pounds over the next 20 years to become a Carbon Neutral Council. However, we are off to a fantastic start: –

  • We’re installing 44 Electric Vehicle Charge points across the county, at no additional cost to the council.
  • We have changed to green energy in all our council owned properties where possible. This has increased our overall cost but was considered the right thing to do.
  • We’re currently consulting in Weymouth as part of Active Travel Highway Improvements on how to encourage safe walking and cycling along the harbour whilst maintaining vehicle access.

This comes from government funding of over £438,000

  • Our Low Carbon Dorset Programme – which helps businesses, community, and public sector organisations by stimulating growth in our low carbon economy and reducing the county’s footprint – was recently extended with an additional funding from the MHCLG of £5 million
  • As I announced in last month’s Cabinet meeting, we have already been successful in securing an offer of government funding to upgrade our properties to reduce our overall carbon footprint. The grant award is £18.79 million. This is out of a total of £51 million distributed under this scheme. This has come about by the close working of officers from different areas of the council. Well done team. When the work is complete we will see a reduction in energy costs. I would like to thank Cllr Shane Bartlett (Scrutiny Chairman) for the help I received when we faced an almost impossible task of achieving deadlines set down in the terms of this bid. This is a great example of cross party working for the benefit of the people of Dorset Councils area.
  • Last month, working alongside BCP Council, we began construction of the first sustainable travel route funded through the Transforming Travel – Transforming Cities Fund programme, which was made possible from government funding of £79 million
  • Our Weymouth Harbour & Esplanade Flood and Coastal Risk Management Strategy, which details how we will ensure that the town is protected from potential coastal flooding and erosion caused by climate change, requires massive investment from multiple sources in excess of £115million.

These are just some figures that indicate the true scale of our ambition when tackling climate change. When considering the tens of millions we have already been awarded that is helping to deliver our climate change actions it is completely unnecessary in my opinion to take £100,000 of tax-payer’s money away from another service’s budget as an apparently token gesture just to demonstrate a commitment we can clearly prove remains a key priority for Dorset Council.

Since May 2019 when we chose to declare a Climate and Ecological Emergency we have funded officer time from our existing Environment budget plus employing extra personnel and have found the money to create what I believe to be a solid Strategy and Action plan.

Once we have amended the Action plan in line with comments from the consultation we have carried out, we will have a picture as to what is needed over the next 20 years.

At a previous Full Council meeting it was suggested that we appoint an extra cabinet position to handle Climate Change, this was not possible because we were already the maximum of 10 portfolio holders allowed by legislation, but we did do the next best thing and appoint two lead members to work with me. They have taken some of my existing workload enabling me to commit even more time and energy to making sure we do what is right for the residents of Dorset on our Climate and Ecological Emergency.

Cllr Ezzard mentions in her amendment tree planting, we have a new tree policy that comes before Cllr Daryl Turners, Policy & Overview committee before going to Cabinet. I can confirm that tree planting is already taking place prior to the tree policy. I was interested in Cllr Ezzard s request for us to plant Fruit & Nut trees, I am looking into this in the hope that the Fruit and Nut comes covered in Chocolate

We have a super greenspace team who are more than capable of dealing with tree planting of the right type of tree in the right place. I have said we have the expertise we need, and we should not seek to duplicate jobs.

As I’ve said throughout, I’m not interested in playing politics with or merely paying lip service to such an important concern as climate and ecological change.

The cross-party Climate Change EAP will be looking at the initial results of the consultation next week (26th Feb) with the final version of the Climate and Ecological Emergency strategy coming to Cabinet for approval in early April.

We’ve got a robust strategy and we will continue to explore all options to secure funding to make our action plan happen. Given the opportunities for this type of funding, I do not support any change to the budget proposals for 2021/2022