West Northamptonshire Council under scrutiny after underperforming in target of Net Zero by 2030
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West Northamptonshire Council (WNC) is in the worst-performing 15 percent of councils for its actions towards meeting Net Zero, a new report has found.
Climate Emergency UK assessed all 127 authorities in England by the actions they have currently taken towards Net Zero between 2021 and March 2023.
WNC placed 110th, according to the Council Climate Action Scorecard, with a score of 23 percent, which is calculated by how much progress a council is making towards Net Zero.
The council’s current score measures just a third of the top achieving councils, which are Westminster City with 62 percent and the London Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham with 60 percent.
Despite WNC issuing a commitment to achieve Net Zero on all council operations by 2030, the council achieved the second lowest score of ‘Urban with rural areas’ authorities for improving and supporting local biodiversity with a rating of eight percent.
The results led to the council facing scrutiny from the opposition, as Shadow Cabinet Member for the Environment, Councillor Paul Joyce, shared his annoyance.
He said: “West Northamptonshire Labour Group have repeatedly demanded the Conservative administration in West Northants take climate emergency seriously and put climate change front and centre of their agenda.”
WNC responded to the ratings and persisted that sustainability and response to climate change remain a key priority to the target of Net Zero by 2030, with the launch of projects such as Net-Zero West Northants (TANZ West Northants) channelling funding from the UK Shared Prosperity Fund (UKSPF).
A council spokesman said: “The initiative will see a range of free resources, research, and expert advice opened to charities and businesses of all sizes.”
WNC said that they will use the details from the assessment to improve its performance but have stated that the work has been done since the results were issued.
The spokesman continued: “A significant amount of work has taken place since the scoring was conducted and the key issues of biodiversity, home energy, and renewables are being addressed.
“The council has started to develop a Local Nature Recovery Strategy for West Northamptonshire, which seeks to work with landowners and other key stakeholders to ensure long-term biodiversity gain across the region.
The assessment also showed that WNC sat in the bottom five of all councils for poor energy efficiency and insulation of homes and for failing to support renewable energy in the community.
As well as placing in the worst 25 percent for environmentally friendly transportation and receiving penalty points for poor air quality.
The council spokesman added: “The council is committed to supporting residents with making their homes more efficient and supports the Eco and HUG Government grant funding schemes which enable residents on low incomes or benefits to access funding for insulation and other interventions to help improve the energy efficiency of their home. To date 125 declarations for the Eco scheme have been approved and previous schemes have be fully allocated.
“The council is in the process of joining the iChoosr scheme Solar Together which will give residents the opportunity to join and collective auction for solar panels. Through the scheme residents will have the opportunity to purchase solar panels for their home at advantageous prices.
“The council lead a successful No Mow May campaign for West Northamptonshire in 2023 which included collaboration with the town and parish councils, for 2024 we intend to build on this success and are already planning a more ambitious campaign.
“The council was shortlisted for the LGC Climate Response category and have been shortlisted for the Investors in the Environment best newcomer award, the final judging will take place in a weeks’ time.
Cllr Joyce stated he requested a Climate and Clean Air Summit for the County and Parish councils. He continued: “Let’s hope that positive action now can improve our future Climate Scorecard for all the right reasons.”
Councillor Wendy Randall, leader of West Northants Labour Group, added: “It’s infuriating to see that we are doing so badly when it comes to climate action.
“We are drastically falling behind other councils in Active Travel and Clean Air and it’s just embarrassing.”
Despite the negative feelings towards the scorecards, the council wanted to reassure that it is committed to the prospect of Net Zero by 2030 and using projects to ensure that it achieves it.
The spokesman added: “The process of developing a carbon reduction strategy for the 2030 target is underway and once complete will be published, work will start on a strategy for achieving the 2045 target.
“The drive to Net Zero is supported by officers across the Council and many projects are in development that will ensure our ambitions become a reality.”
The Council Climate Action Scorecard is completed once a year, so any measure put in place by WNC will be assessed again in 2024.