Cherwell District Council: Mass voting from Conservatives criticised again as climate change motion falls

En masse voting by Cherwell District Council’s Conservative majority came under fire again as proposals to strengthen climate change policies were quashed.
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Cllr Ian Middleton (Green, Kildington East) wanted the council to resolve to only use carbon offsetting “as a last resort,” ensure planning policies “are aligned to zero carbon pathways”, lobby the government for adequate and consistent levels of funds for climate action and look to establish Green Bonds - a type of fixed-income instrument to raise money for green projects.

He argued that despite the council declaring a climate emergency, there remains “notable gaps in our approach” and that “there does not seem to be very much urgency”, citing too little emphasis on the issue in budget proposals for 2022-23.

He said the reference to planning policy was “to achieve the maximum leverage towards high standards in low carbon and zero carbon development”.

Cherwell District Council: Mass voting from Conservatives criticised again as climate change motion fallsCherwell District Council: Mass voting from Conservatives criticised again as climate change motion falls
Cherwell District Council: Mass voting from Conservatives criticised again as climate change motion falls

Cllr Barry Wood (Con, Fringford & Heyfords), leader of Cherwell District Council, said “the controlling group will not be supporting this motion” despite “a wide level of consensus on a lot of things”.

“In particular, there is the matter of planning policies,” he explained. “The motion talks about planning policy being aligned to zero carbon pathways, the difficulty is the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF), as currently constructed, talks about low carbon pathways.”

Cllr Wood did highlight the “scope for that to change in time” but suggested Green Bonds would need to be “led by the county and done through the Future Oxfordshire Partnership”.

The latest division between the Conservatives and all other parties follows on from opposition councillors withdrawing from a working group on Cherwell District Council’s constitution due to the volume of their suggestions getting voted down.

Cllr John Broad (Ind, Bicester West) said he had hoped the Tories would be inclined “not to pull a party whip” and that councillors “would actually be thinking for themselves” on climate change rather than “following some party dictatorship”.

Cllr Perran Moon (Lab, Banbury Grimsbury & Hightown) pleaded with Cllr Wood to “show our residents that we are taking climate change seriously”.

Cllr Barry Richards (Lab, Banbury Ruscote) was “not at all surprised”, saying Conservative voting intentions were “almost inevitable”.

“If Councillor Wood is sincere in his contribution, why didn’t he move an amendment? Why did he not discuss it with the mover before speaking? Once again, I think we have the controlling group showing its true colours,” he said.

Cllr Dan Sames (Con, Bicester South & Ambrosden), Cherwell’s lead member for clean and green, said “significant action” had been produced on climate change, including a 25 per cent reduction in the council’s CO2 emissions through carbon neutral equipment being installed in leisure centres.

“We are taking this very seriously and moving action. We also have to realise that we cannot do everything as soon as we would like to,” he said.

“If Councillor Middleton wants to achieve some useful resolutions for council then I am quite happy to work with him rather than him putting forward motions that don’t actually work to their full extent.”

Cllr Middleton expressed disappointment over no amendment being put forward and said: “We are already three years into the time we set ourselves with our climate change motion.

“Climate does not work to our timetable, we are already seeing massive changes in climate, global weather disasters and impacts within our own county and district. Sitting on our hands, saying we won’t pass this or even suggest amendments, blocking yet another motion, really shows how little the Conservatives on this council care about climate change and future generations.

“We are condemning those future generations to suffer as a result of the shortsightedness of the Conservatives on this council.”