DORSET is a national leader in council climate change and ecological policies – according to the senior councillor heading up the response.
“We are market leaders on what we have done and what we plan to do…we are held in very high regard, nationally,” said Cllr Ray Bryan at a recent Dorset Council Cabinet meeting.
His comments followed a protest in Dorchester during which climate campaigners accused the authority of taking two years to achieve next to nothing.
Although Cllr Bryan admits it will take £130million just to deal with Dorset Council’s carbon by 2040, he says the authority has made a good start, with the amount of carbon generated by council activities equates to just one per cent of the problem in the county.
The cost of the project could result in a five per cent increase in council tax, which could force a public referendum.
Weymouth councillor Gill Taylor said she saw the cost and public support as a potential obstacle, adding: “The finance is going to be a real challenge, a lot of the public don’t get what we are trying to do… a lot of people suggest they think it is someone else’s problem and there are people who say it’s important but their actions don’t suggest that.”
Cllr Bryan called on Dorset residents to back the policies and do what they can individually, warning that without the public taking action, climate targets would not be met.
Councillors were told of how Dorset Council is to spend a £19million government grant to reduce its carbon footprint – initially with 35 projects, which could be expanded to 50, mainly involving council buildings, schools and other assets.
The work was based mainly around heating systems and would include a move towards ‘greener’ methods including air and ground source systems, improving building efficiency through insulation and generating local energy where that was possible.
Cllr Bryan said the council was working hard to spend the record £19million grant to improve the council’s own buildings, something which had to be achieved by September, or the money would be lost.
All will be evaluated as they progress and the council will have to spend the money by January 2022.
The funding equates to more than £50 per head for Dorset’s population, well ahead of the amounts given to other councils on a per capita basis.
Cllr Bryan said in Greater Manchester, where the government grant was highest overall, it worked out at £28 per head, and in Kent £14.
“It’s a fantastic result for Dorset Council who, let me add, is only two years old, and we’ve had a pandemic in the middle,” he said.
“It’s a fantastic success story.”
Cabinet members were told that Dorset Council had rejected the route of some other councils to buy carbon credits, and was working to make real-life reductions with a planned 40 per cent dip in the council’s carbon use by 2025; 71 per cent by 2030, 95 per cent by 2035, and becoming carbon neutral in 2040 – ten years ahead of the government target.
Cllr Bryan said the climate and ecological plan was “achievable and realistic”, although it was now two months behind schedule because of the pandemic and extending the consultation period on the council’s proposals.
It is now expected to be approved at full council by the end of July.
He added: “We said we would place this at the centre of what we do. When it is adopted, it will change a lot of the ways in which we work.”