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‘Gross dereliction of duty’ - council’s long-awaited climate policy criticised

PUBLISHED: 18:22 22 September 2020 | UPDATED: 18:22 22 September 2020

A Norfolk council that has again refused to declare a state of climate emergency has seen its environment policy criticised as a gross dereliction of duty. Photo: Ian Burt

A Norfolk council that has again refused to declare a state of climate emergency has seen its environment policy criticised as a gross dereliction of duty. Photo: Ian Burt

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A Norfolk council that has again refused to declare a state of climate emergency has seen its environment policy criticised as “a gross dereliction of duty”.

The leader of a council which has repeatedly refused to declare a climate emergency plans to scrap a cabinet role with responsibility for the environment. Pictured, West Norfolk Council leader Brian Long. Photo: Ian BurtThe leader of a council which has repeatedly refused to declare a climate emergency plans to scrap a cabinet role with responsibility for the environment. Pictured, West Norfolk Council leader Brian Long. Photo: Ian Burt

West Norfolk Council debated its long-awaited climate strategy - which sets out its commitment to reducing its own impact on the environment - at a cabinet meeting.

But the council’s leadership stopped short of declaring a climate emergency, despite being called on to do so several times by campaigners and the opposition.

It comes after the council leader Brian Long was criticised for his plans to scrap the environment cabinet role after the resignation of the member holding the post.

READ MORE: ‘Disappointing’ - council leader planning to scrap climate role criticised

Michael De Whalley. Picture: Chris BishopMichael De Whalley. Picture: Chris Bishop

Speaking at the meeting, held on Tuesday, September 22, independent councillor Michael de Whalley slammed the council’s efforts as “woefully inadequate”.

The policy commits the council to cut pollution and greenhouse gas emissions - but only from its own activities and not across the wider borough, which is the third-highest for emissions in England.

READ MORE: Council to discuss long-awaited climate change strategy

He said: “The resources and attention devoted by the council to the climate emergency have been woefully inadequate.

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“It has taken the best part of a year to produce an unambitious policy which lacks the urgency the crisis deserves. It focuses on carbon reduction, prioritising the council’s own emissions which represent approximately 1 in 300 of the district’s emissions.

“The lack of ambition to face the challenge of climate chaos represents a gross dereliction of duty by the ruling group.”

He said the actions should be “properly resourced” and the council should “commit to act promptly” on recommendations.

READ MORE: Council leader blasted for ending climate change debate

He added: “This council is perceived to be doing the absolute bare minimum while the rest of the world moves forward.”

Graham Middleton, portfolio holder for business development, said: “What this policy shows is a really robust plan for the future of this borough and what the council wants to do going forwards.”

READ MORE: Council to discuss long-awaited climate change strategy

And Alun Rhyves, independent councillor, added: “It doesn’t go all the way but it is part of the process. The council recognises how these things are interlinked.”

Elizabeth Nockolds, deputy council leader, said: “It’s not just the council, it’s everybody’s responsibility - we all have to work together to understand the climate challenge.”

Councillors voted to accept the new climate policy and against declaring a climate emergency.

READ MORE: Councillor steps down from senior role saying: ‘I’m feeling my age’


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