Response to Editor’s Comment, Page 8, 27/09/2019

In response to this week’s Editor’s Comment, I just wanted to explain a couple of things and let residents judge for themselves in possession of both sides of the debate, not just the one.

Actually, by having our Climate Change Panel in private we can have *more* public engagement and participation in its work not less. As a private panel, it has the power to set its own topics and invite key members of the public to come and present and/or give evidence. This means the opportunity for interested people to come and persuade the powers that be is *greater* than it could be in a public meeting.

A public meeting only allows the public to come and ask a question. Questions are usually time-limited and at the discretion of the chair. That’s because the public are there to observe and scrutinise the work of elected officials in a public meeting so they can hold them to account at an election time, whereas in a private meeting they can be elevated to contributors and give their evidence and submissions in what the modern world refers to as a safe space. It’s an important distinction. 

As for the target – the reason why this has been sent to the panel to determine is due to those of us in the Conservative administration having a belief that we can actually set the target to be sooner than 2030, so we want the panel to determine if this is feasible or not. We want them to come back with an answer based on evidence, not political expediency. We know other councils have opted for 2030 or 2050 in response to public pressure, but how do any of us know that actually they could not have done it by 2025 or 2032 or 2038 or sooner? 

I don’t deny that the public mood on this topic has helped us get our skates on. But the local media and local campaigners seem to forget that my colleagues and I are on the same page, we are on board with this and we share that public mood too. We are, after all, representatives of the people.

What’s more, we turn up to the meetings. It’s all well and good to make a big noise about ‘public’ versus ‘private’ but the council has held TWO public meetings on this topic now and there were no Green campaigners or environmental activists in either of these meetings. As I’ve said before, it’s all well and good amassing a crowd outside Town Hall, but you’ve also got to engage in the committee rooms where the decisions are made.

Also in the Letters Page this week…