Referrals from other bodies
To consider referrals from other bodies (e.g. Cabinet)
i) Climate Strategy
Members considered the council’s draft climate strategy and action plan to allow the document to be published for public consultation.
Councillor Stimson explained that it was a year ago, in June 2019, when the council had declared an environmental and climate emergency. As part of the motion at full Council, the Royal Borough made a commitment to form a cross-party steering group, to develop a draft strategy, and bring it before council a year later. The commitment made as a Council in June 2019 was to achieve a target of net zero carbon emissions in the Borough by 2050, in line with Government policy. This was the minimum commitment. From the number of questions that had been submitted tonight she was aware there was a strong desire for the strategy to be as ambitious as it could be. This was her wish too and the council had committed to publishing an updated trajectory within 6 months of the strategy being approved by full Council.
The latest figures had put the Borough emissions at 670.8 kt CO2. Of that 38% was domestic, 33% was transport, and 28% was industry, commercial and agriculture. When domestic use, the biggest sector, it was gas emissions that were the issue. There were 151,000 residents in the borough living in 59,000 properties, with upwards of 700 being built annually that would need to be taken account of as well. This was the biggest sector to influence and the council would work with government on funding to retrofit homes to decarbonise them.
Councillor Stimson highlighted the areas the strategy covered;
· Circular economy - how to become more sustainable in the use of resources, from not using them, to reducing waste, encouraging material re-use, increasing recycling, and supporting less resource intensive lifestyles
· Energy: how to use less energy in buildings and homes, decarbonisation of supply
· Natural environment: how to look after and improve this part of the Thames Valley and in so doing increase residents’ health and wellbeing.
· Transport: how to reduce the need for carbon intensive travel by encouraging walking and cycling, investing in digital infrastructure, encouraging sustainable travel, electric vehicle charging points, cycle routes.
This was a true emergency, with the climate changing on a scale and pace that threatened the current way of life and more so that of children and their children. The COVID-19 pandemic had shown how people coudl adapt rapidly, and how the borough was capable of working together with urgency to try to help those more vulnerable.
From her perspective as Lead Member, this had been a hard mountain to climb, and the council was just in the foothills. The execution had not been perfect. A month ago her Cabinet colleagues had trusted her (along with the Director of Place) to strengthen the draft strategy presented to them with the work of four stakeholders. A much stronger document was therefore presented. It was still not perfect. It was, after all, a draft. The council needed to engage with businesses, identify a budget and a governance structure. There would be many other challenges that had not yet been thought of; facing a climate emergency was something all councils were struggling with for the first time.
The process going forward needed to encapsulate “fair process”. She felt there was a nervousness that rippled through some Members and officers when she spoke of stakeholder engagement. She was not trying to achieve harmony through compromise by getting everyone’s buy in. Fair process pursued the best ideas whether they were put forward by one or many. It was about engagement, explanation and expectation clarity. When practiced, it engendered trust and buy-in.
In adopting the report, the Council in its entirety would be demonstrating that the challenge was of paramount importance, placing climate change high on the agenda of every council Member and every department. To achieve the goals that had been set out, the council would utilise a range of internal funding sources and deliver its programme of activity. A challenge of this urgency and scale would require funding from central government. The council would also continue to lobby government to make available specific funding.
Councillor Stimson commented that she had many people she would like to thank but did not have time. She particularly wished to thank Sarah Bowden for her patience and her fair approach. She also thanked Gerry and Julian and Councillors Davies and Da Costa.
Councillor Davies commented that the natural world became all the more precious when people were shaken out of their usual complacency by a reminder of just how precarious life was; the sharp contrast made the sky seem bluer, the air fresher, flowers more colourful and birdsong more beautiful. When a crisis happened, it could also be seen what was possible. In the COVID-19 crisis, human beings had shown they were resourceful, inventive, imaginative, and generous. Those same attributes needed to be harnessed to address the existential environmental crisis.
It had been a privilege over the last year to spend time with local residents who had offered so much expert advice on tackling the crisis. She paid tribute to Dr Sarah Bowden for her work leading the CEC over the last eighteen months and kicking the process off. Those connections were something the council needed to develop into a truly participatory process, so that everyone used the unique tools at their disposal. Going forward, the consultation needed to both harness the expertise of stakeholders and reach out to the wider population of the borough and not just engage with those who are already engaged. Councillor Stimson and the sustainability team had worked extremely hard over the last nine months to get to this point, but it was vital that every single Member and every single officer in the Royal Borough truly took ownership of the strategy and for developing it.
There was no time to lose. Accepting the strategy only marked the start of the process. A year ago Councillor Davies had argued for a target date of 2030, as many councils had. In the strategy there was a clear acknowledgement that 2050 was a backstop date and that the target date must be brought forward as this became possible. There was also a commitment that the Steering Group would continue to develop the objectives, scope and methodology of the strategy. There was also a commitment to publishing a revised trajectory to net zero within six months of the strategy being accepted.
That being the case, this was a once in a lifetime opportunity to act. It was not the strategy for the next thirty years, but she believed it was the strategy for this year and she therefore urged Members to support it.
Councillor W. Da Costa t
The council had to address the issue, involve residents, and collaborate because all were in it together. Much good work had been done by many including officers but, it was important to start off on the right foot.
· Net Zero Carbon emissions by 2030 or 2040
· Protect and restore native biodiversity
· Develop Climate Change Resilience for the extreme weather
There was a need to be clear and precise about the three key objectives, the metrics, the targets, and the timeframes and then turn these into policy and report on each in every report that was produced by the council, and embed them in all planning documents.
agree to bring back a revised strategy in 6 months and include input from stakeholders, a board of governance and, two Citizen Assemblies, funded by DEFRA. This was a once in a life time opportunity; it was a life or death opportunity.
Councillor del Campo commented that without direct funding it was difficult to see how a strategy could be perfect but it was a good starting point. She wished to highlight the issue of emissions outside the council’s direct operational control. She was glad to see that Procurement would look at ways to contractually require contractors to reduce emissions. It would be impossible to measure progress if they were not included in the council’s baseline emission figures. Schools were included but there were a number outside of the local authority control.
Councillor Singh commented that this was an evolving piece of work that would need to be periodically revisited. He thanked the Lead Member and officers for what had already been achieved.
Councillor Werner welcomed the work completed by the working group and stated he would be supporting the strategy at the vote. The country was fighting a dreadful virus and the council was fighting a financial situation of its own making. Ultimately the climate emergency could destroy all life on earth therefore it needed to be dealt with urgently and fast. It would cost money but he asked ‘what cost the planet?’ He paid tribute to the work of the working group but he was disappointed that there were so many barriers put in the way. The final report was a compromise between what the working group wanted and what the administration was prepared to allow. Ideally he would like to see some improvements, including an exponential model for carbon emissions. The Tyndall model clearly showed the way to achieve neutrality without exceeding global warming by 1.5 degrees was to invest now in up font improvements. The stakeholder representatives had highlighted a number of issues, but he urged them to stay involved in the process and hold the council to account. Councillor Werner requested that the strategy be brought back updated with money attached to make it a reality.
Councillor Davey commented that he knew the Lead Member’s heart was in the right place and she was keen to find solutions. Improving recycling rates, promoting more sustainable choices, reducing energy demands, creating nice places all sounded idyllic. As a local authority, the need for carbon intensive travel would be reduced by encouraging walking and cycling as well as investing in digital infrastructure. It would create conditions for sustainable travel through the provision of infrastructure such as cycle routes and electric vehicle charging points, and minimise the impacts of road traffic by encouraging cleaner vehicles and supporting innovative smart mobility solutions.
It would take the combined efforts of business, industry, residents and community groups to make the strategy a reality and drive forward real change at the pace and scale that was required. There was talk of the government taking action to ramp up the electric vehicle market. In relation to the target for a growth of cyclists by 50% by 2028, Councillor Davey highlighted that the figure was currently 3%.
In measuring emissions the government advised local authorities to exclude motorway emissions or diesel railways. There were thousands of cars a minute moving in triangular form around Windsor, which was just ignored and instead the focus was on challenging local residents popping to the shops.
A straight line trajectory to net zero by 2050 was the current measure of success. If you asked local school children how they would measure success they would be looking at more of a logarithmic curve. Waste made up 4% of emissions. Targets of 44% waste recycled or composted, with a vision to be 50% by 2025 and improving composting rates by 10% by 2025. Councillor Davey felt these targets were very unambitious. How many people were completely ignoring recycling and chucking out their black bin waste in blue bins at this time? They did not care, they just wanted their rubbish not to be their problem. The council should explain to residents how much more that selfish behaviour costed when the recycling plant rejected the recycle load. Instead the strategy talked about swap shops. He questioned would RBWM fund these; they were not needed when there were charity shops and Facebook.
The strategy talked about 100 people switching domestic energy tariffs to green supplies each year. Councillor Davey asked if that was really ambitious enough to accelerate change.
Councillor Davey highlighted the roll out of digital infrastructure in the borough to enable flexible working, including identifying partners to provide 5G and superfast broadband and trial Smart City concepts in RBWM.
The strategy also talked about identifying a partner and funding model to deliver sufficient charging points to meet demand, monitored through the council’s annual monitoring report. He understood that Connected Kerb were providing the kit for Alma Road and there was a budget allowance for the year. There was a need to review the CIL and S106 payments if the council was going to find the money for all the 5G technology.
The Lead Member mentioned 59,000 properties in RBWM so how did having 10,000 5G enabled electric charge points around RBWM fit with reducing energy demand? Councillor Davey suggested that surely 10,000 hydrogen fuelled cars would be far better for the environment and residents' health. The government had put 5G in the same box as motorways.
He could not support the paper without a debate on 5G, as without it the Climate Strategy was defeating itself. He would be looking for RBWM to have a proper, public debate on 5G pros and cons in the not too distant future.
Councillor Hilton commented that he believed everyone would be supportive of the Climate Change strategy which demonstrated that many people making relatively small changes delivered a big outcome. It was all about cultural change and that would take time. As Lead Member for Finance he was, with Cabinet colleagues, responsible for balancing the council’s books. Cabinet members responsible for spending this money would be considering how that may be done in alignment with the four objectives of the Climate Change strategy.
Councillor Hilton explained that he also chaired the Berkshire Pension Fund Investment working group which proposed the investment strategy and, in the past, made individual decisions on how to investment £2.2 billion. However, in 2016 under government guidance, the fund had pooled its fund with the Local Pensions Partnership (LPP) who managed investments on behalf of the Berkshire fund and also the Lancashire County Pensions fund and the London Pension Fund Authority. There was a total of £17bn in the fund.
For a long time, pension funds had recognised their responsibilities under environmental, social, and governance (ESG) factors which were the three central factors in measuring the sustainability and societal impact of an investment in a company or business. LPP employed 400 people and one of the unintended consequences of pooling was that the resource had become available to provide ESG metrics. LPP had just developed a Responsible Investment Dashboard for client pension funds which presented summary information in a series of visual metrics which allowed engagement with invested companies to seek improvement. This would soon be shared with the Pensions Panel.
There were 89 Local Government pension schemes with assets totalling £300 bn. A number formed the Local Authority Pensions Fund Forum (LAPFF) which provided them with considerable financial muscle; to date 81 of the funds were members. The Forum considered that issues such as climate change and employment standards required as much investor attention as more traditional concerns such as corporate governance and executive remuneration. Councillor Hilton proposed that the Berkshire pension fund joined the LAPFF, something which he was sure Councillor Sharpe who chaired the Pension Panel would support. This did not form part of the local strategy but demonstrated that every aspect of the council’s operations were totally committed to the cause.
Councillor Baldwin stated that he welcomed the paper. It had already undergone significant changes and it was much better for them. As the council moved forward, a clear plan for protecting the remaining natural treasures was needed. The council should urgently review the scope and range of its powers so that Members could be briefed on what was possible. No solution, no matter how radical, should be casually discarded. Preserving them in some sort of trust would benefit both the aims of the paper and the residents of the borough.
Whatever the mechanism, a way had to be found to permanently remove the threat of development on Deerswood Common. He thanked Wild Maidenhead for their extraordinary efforts in the area, from toad ladders upwards. Great Thrift Wood too should be the subject of an urgent review. This was a vital local engine for carbon absorption and one of the loveliest spots in the borough. The work done so far by the Friends of Battlemead Common needed to quickly restart as soon as the COVID-19 limitations could be overcome. This was perhaps the most important wild-life habitat in the borough. The ecological diversity, the rarity of bird species that nested there and its simple beauty made it a rare gem indeed. It was not a park; it was a nature oasis and it should be treated as such.
Councillor Bond commented that the strategy was a good start to an important task. He had been undertaking research into pension fund portfolio transparency and climate change risk and resilience. He welcomed Councillor Hilton’s announcement. In relation to funding of the strategy. The report referred to internal funding sources which were strained at the moment, and the government. Brief mention was made of the local renewable energy co-op which left out so much. Many of the ideas had a payback including renewable energy and home insulation: The circular economy reduced the cost of landfill; low carbon transport usually had lower running costs; composting for even small gardens. Where there was a return there was potentially an investment. There were different risk profiles. Getting the funding was one of the key features of a successful outcome. The SteeringGgroup had taken an important first step.
Councillor Rayner stated that climate change was a most serious threat to the planet. She was very proud to be part of a council that had declared a climate emergency and was working towards being carbon zero. The last few weeks of lockdown had shown what change could happen and that there was the capacity to adapt. She enjoyed being part of one of the key stakeholder groups, Plastic Free Windsor. She had begun to understand what was possible and achievable and this had led to increased engagement through the One Borough group. There were several offshoot projects. In her ward Wild Eton and Eton Wick had been established. With the waterways group they had been working to protect homes from flooding and improve resident access to the rivers and wildlife.
Councillor Rayner explained that in her Lead Member areas there had been a number of targets achieved. The new leisure centre would use 70% less energy than the previous one. The borough libraries had minimised single use plastics, which had also been removed from council meetings. Training for staff on biodiversity and climate change was planned and small groups had been able to take time off to work in the community, for example planting trees.
Councillor C Da Costa commented that she was disappointed to hear that Sarah Bowden had withdrawn her support. She had witnessed the amount of time invested by many in the piece of work, this needed to be honoured by ensuring that climate change policies were woven throughout borough policies rather than put into silos.
Councillor Walters explained that he had originally been a climate change sceptic but was now convinced he had been wrong. He congratulated the Lead Member and her team on the strategy.
Councillor Tisi highlighted the circular economy and the need to reduce waste. She was disappointed that the strategy did not include any actions to reduce the waste from disposable nappies. A single child could create a tonne of waste before they were potty trained. Some local authorities encouraged the use of reusable, washable nappies by sharing knowledge and dispelling myths. Financial support was also often provided, although she appreciated that would be difficult at the moment. She suggested the council could work in conjunction with NCT groups, provide samples at libraries, seek incentive funding from the government and work with local providers to negotiate discounts.
Councillor Jones thanked the contributors to the working group; she understood this was a starting report. Reports included a section on climate change but it was important to fully understand the impact of each decision on the climate emergency that was faced. When measurable targets were in place, she requested that the impact be detailed in reports.
Councillor Knowles explained that he had spent many years living in central Europe, which lead the way because of a surge of interest in Green parties in the 1980s. This had led to coalition involvement meaning the issue was higher on the agenda. From that experience, he was aware that everything was integrated. At a local authority level, the lead on climate change attended every single policy decision making meeting to ensure climate change was taken into consideration and prevented silos.
Councillor Price commented that over 50 years previously she had picked up a book called ‘Silence of Spring’; the message within had affected her ever since. She requested three things be considered over the next 6 months. Increasing cycling had been mentioned but many of the borough residents were elderly whose only alternative was public transport. She would therefore like to see greater emphasis on public transport. The second area was consultation; she felt there was nothing in the report about the consultation. The third was the equality duty. The Equalities Impact Statement could not be left until the end otherwise the council would not be meeting its duty.
Councillor Carroll highlighted the involvement of young people, including the youth ambassadors for whom the issues was very important. A letter had been sent to all school seeking more involvement. He requested that the next iteration continue with the involvement of young people who offered unique insights. The issues highlighted by young people included a desire for the council to be ambitious, that the Members were accountable for undertaking actions both in the council and in their own lives. He felt it would be important for the Lead Member to bring forward a proposal to ask all councillors to commit to improvements from a lifestyle point of view, including investments. The council would be bringing forward a comprehensive recycling campaign including educating residents on which bins to use.
Councillor Sharpe commented that the strategy was an incredible piece of work that all had enjoyed working on. It had got the council to a position far better than previously. It was time to stop talking and get on with it by starting the consultation.
Councillor Hill commented that he felt there was some hypocrisy in the paper. The borough opposed development at Claires Court School, Lodge Farm and other areas yet there was a push to develop Maidenhead golf club and land south of Harvest Hill. The impact of COVID-19 meant a reduction in need for office space and some retail units would inevitably move to residential use. He would support the paper but he was concerned about overdevelopment in his ward.
Councillor Clark commented that it had been an enormous task to produce the paper in the timescale set, particularly given the distraction of COVID-19. The strategy was a dynamic document that would be reviewed.
Councillor Johnson highlighted that 12 months after declaring a climate emergency, the council had a draft strategy for consultation. It was a robust, forward-thinking, innovative document of which all could be proud. He thanked the Lead Member, councillors on the working group and the very valued stakeholder representatives. It was a document in constant need of review to take into account changes in technology, the markets and societal behaviour. He was pleased to see that issues raised 12 months ago, for example enhanced digital infrastructure and innovative use of technology, had been embedded. The COVID-19 situation demonstrated that such behavioural shifts in working patterns and daily lives was possible. It was not easy and needed to be balanced with the need to restart the local economy.
Councillor Stimson thanked Councillor Hilton for looking at the role of the Pension Fund. She highlighted that 15,000 trees had been planted by volunteers in Thrift Wood. Recycling of nappies was covered in the strategy but she welcomed a follow-up conversation with Councillor Tisi. The council was reviewing the trajectory; ideas to improve the situation were welcome from anyone in the community. She had enjoyed working with the stakeholders and thanked them for their input. She looked forward to working with everyone as the strategy progressed.
It was proposed by Councillor Stimson, seconded by Councillor Davies, and:
RESOLVED UNANIMOUSLY: That Full Councilnotes the report and:
i) Approve the strategy for public consultation at the appropriate time.
ii) Fees and Charges Report 2020/2021 - addition
Councillor Hilton explained that the report detailed an addition to the councils proposed fees and charges for 2020/21. As a result of an administrative error this was not included in the schedule considered by Council in February.
The council had the ability to charge for some services, some charges were fixed and some discretionary. When discretionary the charge was based on the cost of the service and what was reasonable. When street furniture was damaged, on behalf of Highways, the Insurance team sought to recover the repair cost from the third party. The council made no charge for to the third party or their insurers for the time spent in progressing the claim. To address this the administration fee was proposed to be added to recoveries, payable by the third-party insurers as part of the claim. It was anticipated this would amount to £2,000 a year.
It was proposed by Councillor Hilton, seconded by Councillor Story, and:
RESOLVED UNANIMOUSLY:That Full Council notes the report and approves the Street Furniture Cost Recovery Admin Fee for 2020/21 as set out in Appendix A.