Dorset councillors reject proposal for £100,000 budget on climate change measures

climateA LIBERAL Democrat motion to put £100,000 in next year’s Dorset Council budget for climate change measures has been labelled “grandstanding”.

The accusation came from Weymouth Conservative councillor Louie O’Leary, who voted against the council’s climate change commitments a year ago.

“This is just grandstanding,” he said, “what we have is a tax emergency.

“We’re the second highest council tax area in the country and here we are being asked to spend an extra £100,000 on the climate emergency.”

Cllr Beryl Ezzard said Dorset Council had proposed the extra money claiming there was nothing specific in the budget for climate change actions in the coming financial year, unlike some of its neighbouring authorities.

“£100,000 at the very least, should be a priority for this council; although we face many difficulties and trials currently, we need to focus on the objective of being carbon neutral by 2030 not by 2040,” she said.

She suggested that money could be taken from the £90,000 set aside for pay increases to ‘lead councillors’, and to use £25,000 of unallocated cash from the tourism budget.

Said Cllr Louis O’Leary: “While I do enjoy watching the opposition parties out-greening each other at every meeting, I do get really fed up to keep hearing about giving money to this, and this, and this.

“I think the real problem facing our council, which residents will agree with, is we’re facing a tax emergency; a child services emergency; a demographics emergency, yet once again we have the same grandstanding – asking for more and more money for climate change.

“I’m afraid it’s about time we changed direction on this and it’s about time the opposition, instead of coming here with stupid proposals like this, would get on board with Cllr Bryan [climate change brief holder] a bit more.

“I’m really concerned that we’re about to put up council tax again and other members are pulling this socialist attitude that we can just thrown money at a problem.

“Tomorrow I will go down and talk to residents who are suffering from the worst recession while we are putting council tax up again.”

Several Liberal Democrat councillors denied the move was anything other than to try to show a commitment to tackling climate change by providing a budget to be used for modest projects in the year ahead.

Climate change brief holder Cllr Ray Bryan said he doubted if local council taxpayers would be prepared to pay millions of pounds more to achieve a shorter target date.

“Our chosen route is too seeking financial support from central government rather than ask our residents to fund our plans,” he said.

The council has already achieved £19million in grants to improve the fuel efficiency of its buildings and in other areas.

Cllr Bryan said that, despite there being no specific line for climate change in next year’s budget, it was included within various departments with both officer and councillor time.

Cllr Ezzard’s amendment was lost 18 to 49 with 12 abstentions.

By Local Democracy Reporter Trevor Bevins

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  1. Louis O’Leary accusing others of grandstanding would be a joke if it wasn’t so tragic. He recently wasted over an hour of valuable Dorset Council time with a debate on his totally irrelevant motion condemning a climate emergency protest in London. What did that have to do with Dorset ? Nothing at all, it was pure grandstanding. Sadly, in spite of all the science and the ever mounting evidence, Louis O’Leary is (like too many of his fellow Conservative councillors) in denial over the urgency of the climate and ecological emergency and the effect it is already having on the residents of Dorset. The increasing number and severity of adverse weather events has already cost some of our residents dearly. Just ask those whose properties and lives have been affected by floods in the last 12 months for example. If O’Leary was genuinely concerned for the welfare of Dorset residents he’d be doing something to protect them from the unfolding crisis, rather than accusing those councillors who are trying to do something about it of being ‘socialists’.

  2. This attitude from Louie O’Leary is absolutely astonishing.

    The UK government, Dorset Council itself and many town and parish councils have declared climate and ecological emergencies and pledged to reduced greenhouse gas emissions to net zero.

    Scientists tell us that climate change and biodiversity loss is happening so rapidly that if we don’t act fast NOW we may trigger tipping points to uncontrollable global heating and collapses of the natural systems we depend upon.

    David Attenborough addressed the UN Security Council on 23rd February – please watch this 8 minute video:

    In his address, Sir David says:

    “Make no mistake, climate change is the biggest single threat to security that modern humans have ever faced …If we act fast enough, we can reach a new stable state … We have, perhaps crucially, a level of public support and demand for action that I myself have never seen before … It is people alive today, in particular young people, who will live with the consequences of our actions … ”

    The point is that it is not too late to change course. We have many of the solutions already and we have public support for the change we need to make together.

    In the community engagement survey ‘Our Future Town’ in Lyme Regis, 82% respondents put environmental issues like climate change at the top of their list of concerns (state of the economy & inequality was next on 79% and social issues like illness and isolation were concerns for 74%).

    Public concern is palpable – Business as Usual is not an option.

    Dorset Council should follow the examples being set in Cornwall, Devon, Somerset and Wiltshire where the lead authorities are showing leadership and commitment to zero carbon futures.

    Our neighbouring county councils are working with their town and parish councils, community groups and the climate action networks who are collaborating to share best practice and support the improvements to the health and well-being of our people and our natural environment.

    Cllr Louie O’Leary is so wrong to make Dorset Council look so inept and out of touch. This is NOT what we hoped and expected of our elected local politicians.

    Please Dorset Councillors, listen to your residents, listen to your own experts who have crafted the Climate and Ecological Emergency Strategy, listen to the scientists and wake up to the urgent need to change course and work together to achieve, as Sir David hopes:

    ” .. a stable, healthy world where resources are shared and where we thrive in balance with the natural world. We may for the first time in the entire history of humanity feel what it feels like to be secure.”

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