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Agenda item

Carbon Reduction Action Plan

To note the progress made in in delivering the year 1 action plan; to approve the year 2 action plan; and to recommend to Council the inclusion of a permanent Carbon Reduction Programme Officer post within the ongoing base budget of the Council from April 2022.

Subject To Call In::1. No - Item to Note. 2. No - Ongoing Matter. 3. No - Recommendation to Council.

Decision:

1.       That the progress achieved in year one of the action plan be NOTED.

2.       That the recommended year 2 action plan be APPROVED.  

3.       That it be RECOMMENDED TO COUNCIL that, from April 2022, a permanent Carbon Reduction Programme Officer post be included within the ongoing base budget of the Council at an estimated cost of £40,600.

Minutes:

22.1          The report of the Head of Finance and Asset Management, circulated at Pages No. 143-161, asked Members to note the progress achieved in year one of the action plan; approve the recommended year two action plan; and recommend to Council the inclusion of a permanent Carbon Reduction Programme Officer post within the ongoing base budget of the Council at an estimated cost of £40,600 from April 2022.

22.2          In July 2020, the Council had approved an initial baseline report and associated action plan. In the last six months, a lot of good progress had been made in moving forward some of the actions – those were set out within the report with the targets. Appendix A to the report highlighted the achievements in the first year of the action plan which included: submitting an application and gaining agreement for external funding to support the feasibility study and delivery of a replacement heating system at the Council Offices; significant work to establish energy diaries for all Council operational buildings which provided a baseline of energy usage and carbon consumption and a means of monitoring those issues in the medium term; survey work at the Roses Theatre and the Council’s domestic properties; consultation with Human Resources to approve a cycle salary sacrifice scheme; and a range of smaller achievements, including the appointment of a countywide Climate Change Coordinator and the works required in the car parks. In terms of monitoring, data had been gathered for the Offices which showed a saving in the last 12 months in carbon emissions due to Officers working from home; however, the amount of gas usage had increased as less heat had been generated by people. Overall, 26 tonnes of carbon had been saved during the period. Data was still being collected from other properties, the grey fleet and the Ubico fleet.

22.3          In terms of the second year of the programme, a balanced set of actions were proposed and had been grouped under four themes of: communications and engagement; technical implementation; scoping studies, policies and schemes; and budgets and external funding and included actions such as furthering the carbon reduction agenda and raising wider awareness; continuing to source further funding opportunities; update of policies; and delivery of projects to save carbon emissions. The Officer report included a recommendation for a post to support the project. The Council had appointed a part-time Low Carbon Consultant and his work had been supported to date by the Asset Manager and Head of Finance and Asset Management but the potential for the project was huge, as was the amount of work, so it was not sustainable for a part-time post. The Lead Member for Clean and Green Environment was supportive of the recommendation and he hoped the Committee would agree the recommendation to Council. The Lead Member advised that the achievements the Council had made so far were exceptional but it had to be recognised that the Head of Finance and Asset Management could not sustain the amount of work he had been doing and there was a need for a dedicated Officer to help drive the way forward to carbon neutrality. A Member agreed and advised that this had been an excellent report for the first year and that to go forward into the second year, and meet the challenging action plan, an additional resource was required – this would also provide the opportunity to encourage public buy-in and behavioural changes.

22.4          In response to a query about the pool vehicles, the Head of Finance and Asset Management explained that, during the COVID-19 pandemic, the cars had not been required so all but two vehicles had been returned, one of those that remained was electric, as the Council continued its recovery more pool cars would be brought back in and it was possible that the whole fleet could be electrified in the near future. At the moment the Council did not offer a salary sacrifice scheme to help staff purchase all electric vehicles but this was something which was being discussed.

22.5          A Member thanked Officers for the phenomenal work that had been achieved and questioned whether it should be formally recognised that the Council was now aiming for more than agreed within the original motion. There followed a discussion about the original motion and it was generally felt that there were wider intentions in the motion even though the first focus was on the Council Offices building. The Head of Finance and Asset Management agreed that the focus was on the Offices but Officers were also looking at other buildings in the Council’s ownership, as well as the leisure centre, and then the strategy would be revised with the wider Council activities included in the focus. Members agreed that the Council needed to lead by example with its own properties, including the installation of charging points within car parks, and it would then be able to ask the public to change their behaviour. Another Member expressed concern about the continued installation of gas central heating in properties. In response, she was advised that there was a law being introduced from 2025 which meant gas central heating could not be installed in new build properties. The Council would need to take a phased approach after that to look at changing old installations – this was not something that could be achieved overnight. Another Member indicated that current building regulations did not allow the Council to force builders not to install gas central heating; however, the Garden Town principles and Joint Core Strategy (JCS) review both had a ‘green’ agenda which was helpful to a certain extent.

22.6          A number of Members were keen that the Council should not declare a target of becoming zero carbon across the whole Borough until it knew it was achievable. The Head of Finance and Asset Management agreed with that view, particularly given that not all actions would be totally within the gift of the Council to achieve. He felt there would, in time, be a need to agree a new overall target but this was something Members needed to be fully informed about prior to making a decision. The Members agreed and felt there were some authorities who would require all homes to retrospectively be fitted with different heating systems in order to meet their targets and this did not seem possible.

22.7          Accordingly, it was

Action By:HF&AM

Supporting documents: