COP26: ‘Too little or not enough’ climate resources row in Calderdale

As the United Nations COP26 climate change summit comes to a close, a council’s ruling group has been accused of devoting either too much or too little in resources to tackle the issue.

Calderdale Council’s controlling Labour group faced a calls of climate change policy being a “vanity project” by Conservatives while Liberal Democrats said the council needed to do more.

Several Labour councillors referenced a resident’s Tweet on social media highlighting a passage from a north Halifax ward Conservative leaflet, which referred to an element of the council’s climate change policy as a “vanity project.”

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Referencing service cuts, the leaflet said: “Still the Labour run council would rather spend money on vanity projects such as £1m on climate change and millions more for cycle lanes.”

Cabinet member for Climate Change and Resilience, Coun Scott Patient

Cabinet member for Climate Change and Resilience, Coun Scott Patient (Lab, Luddenden Foot) said the comments were “disappointing” but it was not without precedent as some

Calderdale Conservatives had said the same thing before, including on the Conservative Home website.

“It’s a shame where elsewhere cross party unity on all issues climate does occur.

“Unfortunately our local group would instead like to use this existential issue – ask anyone from Todmorden to Elland who are suffering worse and more frequent flooding than ever before – as a political football.

“I hope they see the error of their ways soon and lobby out Government for the help that is needed to avert catastrophic temperature increases above 1.5 degrees,” he said.

Coun Patient said councils could not do the necessary work alone and pointed out Calderdale’s work on climate change had been recognised two years running by Local Government Association awards and it is the lead authority around climate issues at the West Yorkshire Combined Authority.

But Conservative group leader on the council, Coun Steven Leigh (Con, Ryburn) said the statement was “entirely understandable” when it related to a candidate seeking to represent an area with some of the highest rates of deprivation in Calderdale perceiving some council spending plans as lower on the priority list.

This referred to £1 million of capital funding the Labour-run council had allocated for climate change projects, against a background of the Government’s assessment that dealing with climate change will cost £50 billion a year from 2030 to 2050.

“However, £1 million is significant when it comes to changing the lives of local residents.

“We believe that the council focus must be on delivering meaningful change to local communities with a stronger focus on levelling up tackling public health inequalities and alleviating deprivation.

“We consider that at least half of the £1 million of capital should be used in Calderdale for spending on sport and leisure facilities, green spaces and community safety.

“This would make an immediate difference to the lives of residents in North Halifax,” said Coun Leigh.

Meanwhile Calderdale Liberal Democrats allege the council is not doing enough on climate change.

Group leader Coun James Baker (Lib Dem, Warley) says the council is missing targets on carbon dioxide reduction, achieving “only mid-league results” compared to other northern boroughs, highlighting a need for renewed cross-party effort and ward-by-ward action on climate change.

“We question the progress the council is making towards its climate change targets.

“A target was for the last reporting period for the amount of carbon dioxide emitted by the council but it missed that 2020 target by some way.

“Rather than patting itself on the back Calderdale Council needs to double down on efforts to tackle the climate emergency – there is a danger the council will believe its own publicity as to its progress whereas in reality there is much more that the council could be doing, should be doing and which needs to be done,” he said.

In response, Coun Patient said patting itself on the back was not what the council was about and cross-party working with the Liberal Democrats was good with a number of additions to policy motions proposed by the latter included.

He said carbon reduction targets had been met and the “red/amber/green” rating system showed Calderdale consistent with other authorities with a mix of red and amber signalling serving to show the scale of the challenge.

Coun Patient said tackling climate change was his “utter commitment” but councils could not do it alone.

“I don’t want the people of Calderdale and my kids having to face repeated flooding, scorching heat or terrible storms.

“We can, and must, do better,” he said.

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