Recent Green Councillor Achievements
2020 was a great year for Green Councillors. Here's a roundup of some of our achievements.
In July, the Greens took over the running of Brighton & Hove City Council, following Labour Party resignations,with Cllr Phelim McAfferty becoming Leader.
Green Councillors now form part of the Ruling Administration on 18 Principal Authority councils - as well as over 10 town councils - where they work collaboratively with councillors from other parties to run the Council under various different power sharing arrangements. This is often the result of months of hard work to build positive relationships and trust.
The most recent Green Councillor to enter power sharing arrangement was Cllr Lesley Whybrow who became Cabinet Member for the Environment on Folkestone & Hythe District Council.
With two Green Councillors for the first time ever on North Devon District Council, the Lib Dem Leader offered Green Cllr Netti Pearson the role of Lead on the Environment. Making her learning curve as a new councillor even steeper, she has been working cooperatively with the Lib Dem Lead for Climate Change and is part of the Council’s Climate Action Team. As a big believer in participatory action, Netti has been encouraging the rural parishes in her District to work together to address the Climate Emergency: she instigated a well-received climate emergency workshop for parishes in October and has organised a climate action week in March aimed at getting parishes across the district offering workshops, drop-ins, films etc in order to get the wider public engaged and informed.
For most of our Green Councillors, each successful motion to council - including those listed below - required working collaboratively with councillors from other parties to get them to back the motion.
Empowered Residents, independent decision-making
Green Cabinet Member for Planning & Infrastructure on Lewes District Council Emily O’Brien has committed to changing the Planning culture by putting community first: a new 'open book viability' process which will help prevent developers getting out of their affordable housing commitments will go out to consultation this summer; a review of CIL (Community Infrastructure Levy) funding will ensure the funding process has carbon reduction, biodiversity and community benefit at the heart; she has secured a commitment to the Greenest possible Local Plan when it is reviewed this year and has spent lots of time sharing information in ordinary language so that people understand and are involved in local planning processes.
Last Spring, Green councillors in Trafford supported a local 13 year old campaigner to speak at council after she produced a 600 signed petition which also had the backing of Green Party Leader, Jonathan Bartley: this secured £130k to revamp a dangerous crossing and make it safe for schoolchildren, churchgoers and local people.
St Albans’ sole Green councillor Simon Grover has helped residents set up and run an Environment Action Group, which works to support and encourage the Council to take pro-environment action, and comes up with ideas of its own. The group is now entering its second year, has over 100 members, its own website and a string of successes already. The most significant is creating a district-wide rewilding project, which is now a funded, joint venture between the Council and the local Wildlife Trust. Simon continues to be a group convener, and the main connection to officers and leading councillors.
At Arun District Council, Green councillors have worked collaboratively with the Lib Dem majority group to help secure a move away from the Cabinet to a Committee system at the council from next year.
On Leeds City Council the three Green Party Councillors play an important Scrutiny role, challenging the Council’s leadership and holding them to account. On the Childrens and Families Scrutiny Board Ann Forsaith has asked for the board to look at how the Council can help enable schools to respond to the Climate Emergency and this is now being taken forward to the Climate Emergency Advisory Committee.
Ann has prioritised consideration of the ‘journey to school’ agenda and this led to the Green Party amendment to a Labour administration’s motion on Active Travel being passed: ‘Council also notes the low air quality in many parts of Leeds, caused directly by emissions from vehicles and the particular impact that this has on the health of children. In view of Leeds being a Child Friendly City, and having declared a Climate Emergency in March 2019, Council commits to do everything within its power to encourage and enable Active Travel for children and young people travelling to and from their schools and colleges.’
Environmental Sustainability and Climate Change Action
- High Housing Standards
Lewes District Council’s Green-led Cooperative Alliance has recently announced £6000,000 budget for climate change related projects and a 30-year plan to build over 1,000 new council houses, which will be built to highest environmental standards. The council has also committed to an eco retrofit of existing council housing.
In Norwich, Green Party’s Paul Neale, at January’s City Council meeting,secured a unanimous vote from all parties to build future council housing to the highest possible environmental standards. This shows what a strong Green presence on the council can achieve. Back in 2014 he had set the ball rolling by getting the council to consider building houses to these specifications. This culminated in the award-winning, PassivHaus standard council houses being built at Goldsmith Street. Paul Neale, councillor for Nelson Ward, said: “I feel that after a journey of six years the council should now commit to always building to the highest possible environmental standards not just explore it, or worse go back to the old ways. These construction levels achieve wins all round: for tenants facing fuel poverty; for the council by reducing rent arrears; and for the environment by helping tackle the climate crisis.”
In Stroud, where a Green Councillor chair the Environment Committee and is leading on the Council’s Climate Change Plan, Greens have gone even further and managed to secure the backing of other parties for approve the inclusion in the Draft Local Plan of a requirement that all new developments be carbon zero as well as a policy to encourage use of land for renewable energy projects.
Cllr Sue Roberts is the Chair of the South Oxfordshire District Council’s Climate Emergency Advisory Committee and recently presented this report to her council. This committee is overseeing the design and procurement of net zero new council offices, and has commissioned baseline reviews of the council’s and district’s energy use and carbon emmissions. The Plan for the coming years includes: retrofit our council-owned buildings for energy efficiency and renewables, whilst helping home-owners and landlords to do the same; to undertake feasibility studies in order to make wise investments in renewables, to reduce single-use plastic and promote plant-based diets; to move to low-carbon travel; to encourage behaviour change and low-carbon action in the wider community and in business, including through providing baselines and strategies for change; and to develop schemes for the recovery of nature.
At only her second council meeting, Nicola Day got Peterborough City Council to declare a climate emergency. Since then, she’s been working very closely with both council officers and Extinction Rebellion to make links between protest and opening up local democracy and has just been shortlisted for the 'Environmental Women in Peterborough Awards for 2020' by Women In Peterborough. Now, only a few months later ,after pushing hard in Cross Party Climate Change meetings for the need to get Climate Change council officers in place in Peterborough, the Council has just advertised for not one, but two such posts. As Nicola said, “Whoop whoop de doo!”
Even only two Green Councillors can have a big influence if they form a Group. Having a Green Group of two councillors on Arun District Council has ensured the Group Leader has a key role in shaping council strategic policy: this has resulted in climate change being an overarching priority, and the appointment of a Sustainability Manager, a high level post working across the council to achieve Net zero by 2030.
Arun Green councillors Isabel Thurston and Faye Catterson also presented a motion leading to West Sussex County Council being challenged to divest from its fossil fuel pension funds (part of Worthing Climate Action Network campaign).
- Protecting the Countryside
Stroud District Councillor Norman Kay sits on the Management Board of the beautiful Cotswolds Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) where he’s been working for several months with a colleague from Cotswold District Council to convince the Board that it should reappraise its policies towards land management and its support for renewable energy installations in the light of the climate emergency.
Expecting an uphill battle with resistance to change from the farming and other interests on the Board, they were pleasantly surprised at the support when their motion calling for a greener role for AONBs, action to restore biodiversity and a more active role generally, was unanimously approved.
Specific proposals are now being put together. At present the Board claims it is not averse to PV and similar energy projects provided they are small scale – on domestic roofs or in less than half a hectare, and sited in out-of-the-way places and it does not support wind power higher than 25 metres and not in prominent places. In reality it is quite restrictive. Norman also wants a change in farming practices with the AONB encouraging sustainability and less use of fertilisers and sprays and a more encouraging attitude towards renewable energy within the AONB.
Norman says “Thus far we find that we have been pushing against an open door. However we anticipate resistance against any significant changes to life styles or action which affect people’s pockets. We are glad nevertheless to have helped open up the discussion and to help move the AONB towards more sustainable initiatives.”
During their election campaign our two new Green councillors on Swale Borough Council heard a strong message from constituents that they want to see change, especially to cancel plans for large housing estates in the countryside. Since being elected, they have campaigned against inappropriate housing developments in the countryside and. Swale Borough Council has now announced a new priority for affordable homes to meet local need and close to transport links. Building large estates in the countryside is no longer a priority. A new local plan is being developed to reflect these new strategic goals.
In the London Assembly, Caroline Russell proposed a motion to end the use of harmful pesticides which are linked to causing cancer and it was passed unanimously.
In Lewes, Sean McLeod has got Southern Water to take action on sewage spills which have been a common occurance at a local nature reserve for the past 12 years. The water company promised a deep clean of the area, a new monitor to alert them more quickly to blockages in future and more regular checking. They also agreed to a Community Engagement Day to educate the public about the cause of the blockages, which is people putting inappropriate items down down toilets,and to work proactively with the public to avoid future occurrences.
- Reducing Waste to Landfill
Green councillors in Burgess Hill, Mid Sussex, have set up a Repair Cafe, to launch on 15th Feb. The Repair cafes will result in less waste to landfill, will be a great place for people to get to know each other & reduce loneliness, and will help low-income households get gadgets mended and to value and learn from the skills of the older people doing the repairing.
Under the leadership of the Green Chair of the Environment Committee, Stroud District Council this year won a national award for being the highest performing council for recycling in the south west, and with residents throwing away the least amount of residual waste in England.
In Worcester, Cllr Neil Laurenson persuaded Worcester City Council to install public drinking water fountains in the city centre. Following a Green Party motion in July 2018, the city council agreed to stop using single-use plastics and has been working with Plastic Free Worcester.
Greens Change Everything
- Holding the Council to Account
Nicola Day sits on Peterborough City Council’s Children's Education Scrutiny Committee and recently worked with a Lib Dem councillor to call in a controversial RC Faith School Decision.
- Affordable Housing and tackling homelessness
In Bristol, Martin Fodor’s earlier successful budget ammendment, to pay for extensions in cramped council housing, has borne fruit as the first family have now used the fund to create more space to become foster carers.
Lambeth Green councillors have been working hard to tackle homelessness in the borough: The successful Living Rent motion to protect tenants proposed by Becca Thackray, calls for the power to establish and enforce local rent controls to be devolved to Lambeth Borough Council. The motion also commits the council to publish an annual ‘Lambeth Living Rent’ for the private rented sector and to implement a private landlord licensing scheme to clamp down on rogue landlords.
Green councillors in Lambeth also developed a Homelessness Charter which has been adopted by Lambeth Council. The Charter includes a bill of rights including the right to housing, the right to use public space and the right to sanitary facilities.
- Safer Streets
In Kirklees, a successful bid for public realm funding by Green Party Councillors resulted in traffic calming at Cross Lane in Newsome, which the community had long campaigned for
- Mental Health
Green councillors in Lambeth successfully lobbied for Lambeth Council to sign up to the Time to Change Employer pledge which commits the council to put in place evidence based interventions and support for the mental health and well being of their employees.
Lewes District Council appointed one of its Green Councillors to be its Mental Health Champion after the Greens persuaded the Council to commit to positive action to promote good mental health, tackle discrimination and support those with mental health difficulties across the area.
- Challenging discrimination
Stroud Green Councillors, with Alliance partners, issued a statement to “condem all forms of racism across the world and, in supporting Black Lives Matter, to recognise the historic and institutional injustice experienced by BAME people across the world, including in our own communities, and reaffirm our commitment to promoting equalityand tackling discrimination.” In Lambeth, Greens proposed a successful motion on Atonement and Reparations for the United Kingdom’s Transatlantic T.raffic in Enslaved Africans. Many other Green Councillors have got their councils to take action including reviewing their Equality and Diversity Strategies and practices and providing training to councillors
The first two Green Councillors to be elected onto Swale Borough Council, local GP Alastair Gould and Tim Valentine, are now part of the ruling Administration with alliance partners Labour, Liberal Democrats and Independents. Since being elected they have campaigned for zero tolerance of racism on the council and the Council has now introduced a requirement for all councillors to undertake high quality diversity and equality training so that the Council will never again be brought into disrepute by individual councillors’ public support for racists.
Parish and Town Council Achievements
- New Ideas and enthusiasm from the youngest parish councillor
Since becoming a Parish Councillor in Duffield in November, Joe Martin has worked hard to get his council to declare a climate emergency. In January his motion was finally passed and he will now be heading the environmental working group and working to get the council and local community to reduce their carbon footprint, and become more aware of the environmental impact in the decisions made as a council.
Joe is the youngest councillor at 22 years old and says “I often feel I have to work twice as hard to get my voice heard and ensure that business as usual doesn’t remain! This far it has been a pleasure to introduce Green Party values to this council.”
- Green Councillors keep digging away to get local wildflower verges
On Thurnby Parish Council, Leicester, Melanie Wakley has been working since last March to get permission to plant a wildflower verge in her village. As a Parish Councilor she thought this would be quite easy, but apparently it isn’t! The final stages were completing a consultation at Christmas by knocking on doors of houses near to the verge and then meeting a representative from the local County Council and filling in more paperwork until she has now finally got permission. Melanie is now in the process of engaging local people in the project by holding a ‘preparation’ session and then a ‘planting’ session.
Whilst opinion in the town and amongst councillors remains divided, with many some preferring the deathly 'bowling green' approach to verges, Shrewsbury Town Councillor Julian Dean won local support for some patches of wildflower planting as a trial. It was then a matter of pushing this through layers of bureaucracy to get the unitary authority to change it's specification to the town council who actually do the work... but with the help of a keen officer in the Countryside team in Shrewsbury, the plan is going ahead this spring. The next step will be to gather pictures of supportive residents... and call for a Countywide policy change.
- Green councillors help achieves wins for residents
Sarah Sharp in Chichester has worked with a community group to save a local school.
The campaign started in late summer last year, continued over lockdown and was won when the County Council’s decision was finally over-turned in the House of Lords. A win for local people who will be able to continue to walk and cycle to their little local school.
On Bicester Town Council, Robert Nixon - after campaigning on it since November 2018 - finally persuaded Network Rail to carry out a two day litter cleanup operation on their land. He said “It's an area of my ward that has been in a terrible condition for as long as I can remember. This is a huge win for residents especially given that an officer told me "Oh you'll never get them [Network Rail] to do that" and residents told me the former Tory MP had never been able to sort it for them” Robert also got the council to add a new litter bin in the area and since then has had so many positive comments from residents about it. Robert added “It seems like a really small thing but it means so much to local people especially because that path is used as a main walking route to the town centre by a large area of my ward.”