Opinion: Now is not the time to play games with Net Zero say West Northants Lib Dems

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Liberal Democrat councillors at West Northants Council are putting forward a motion to Council this week to call for greater focus on its net zero carbon and sustainability agenda.

“We submitted our motion a month or so ago, so there is some degree of irony that we are now seeing Prime Minister Sunak and many Senior Conservatives, including local MP Chris Heaton-Harris, breaking their clear manifesto pledges to weaken key policy pledges on the net zero carbon agenda” says Cllr Jonathan Harris - Ward Member for Brixworth, who will be presenting the motion at council on the 28th September.

“While the Conservative government simply want to create a divisive issue, we can make a real impact here at local Council level. Sunak is simply playing pre-election games in advance of the general election showdown and it shouldn’t be our and our children’s futures that pay the price,” he continues.

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West Northants Council signed the UK100 Pledge early in January 2022 following a Lib Dem motion in July 2021 and Labour in December 2021. The pledge commits the council to become net zero in its carbon emissions by 2030 and the West Northants area net zero by 2045, five years ahead of current national legislation.

Cllr Rosie HumphreysCllr Rosie Humphreys
Cllr Rosie Humphreys

“The Council has made some good progress on this issue and has a cross-party sustainability group working with officers, aiming to maintain focus on aligning everything that the council does around this critical agenda”, continues Cllr Rosie Humphreys Ward Member for Braunston & Crick, who will be seconding the motion. “However, unlike the Conservative government, we believe that it is time to amplify our efforts and move more rapidly. The government have said that they will stop taxes on eating meat, stop compulsory car sharing, and stop the sorting of rubbish into seven bins amongst other things. This is dishonest – no such policy ever existed. A year on from Liz Truss trashing the economy now we have a PM who is trashing the environment.”

The Lib Dems are calling for the Sustainability Group, of which Harris and Humphreys are both members, to become a ‘cabinet advisory group’ rather than just a working group. Cllr Harris is currently the Council’s representative on this year’s UK100’s Leadership Academy Programme, designed to support councils to create clarity and focus on their net zero approach.

“It is evident that whilst we have made great strides on this agenda, we must do more, more rapidly and ensure that we have alignment in all the Council’s strategic approaches. The Council is working on its new combined Local Plan and Transport Plan and we need to make sure that there is a clear thread linked to our net zero pledge. Cabinet has the decision-making power; however, we do believe there are more opportunities for the sustainability group to signpost more effectively. Given the news this week, we also want to ensure that there is no weakening of this council’s net zero mission,” Cllr Harris says.

The council meeting takes place at 5pm on Thursday 28th September at the Guildhall, Northampton.