Joe Salmon, 05 August 2023, Tags:
As ever this is a brain dump of my own thoughts, please don’t take this as representative of the other Green Councillors on BCP etc etc.
The next full council meeting takes place on the 12th of September, and what I’ve been stressing over most is how to pivot us from what amounts to basically total inaction to making a start on the topic of climate change. No blog post last week by the way as we took the first week of the summer holiday as a holiday together as a family and spent a week off grid. We all got colds, were kept in doors by wet weather and I’m still quite run down as a result. I’m gutted to have missed Al's birthday bash last night, but I’m still so tired that I’m in bed by 10 at the moment most nights.
So here is the current text for the motion I’m working on, it’s very much in a draft format and I’ve not properly consulted with the other Greens or relevant officers but thought I’d share what I’ve got so far as it sums up my feelings on the topic fairly well.
“In the face of the climate and ecological emergency, we find ourselves at a crucial crossroad. It is evident that some progress has been made locally, nationally even, but not globally as CO2 emissions continue to surge. We must confront three hard truths:
Our world, our towns, are on the verge of experiencing more extreme and unpredictable natural disasters, with horrific consequences we cannot control or foresee. Climate tipping points such as the melting of the arctic and catastrophic disruption of the gulf stream are looming. There is a real possibility of unforeseen "black swan" events disrupting our lives now in ways we cannot comprehend every morning we wake up.
The clock is ticking, and we may soon reach a point of no return, where any action we take won't be enough to prevent our planet becoming totally inhospitable to human life. The terrifying truth is we will pass the point of no return years before we come to realise our fate is sealed. Indeed it is impossible to rationally conclude that this could not have already taken place. We cannot delay for a second longer.
Our current legal and political framework is not equipped to address the urgency of the situation. We can't afford to wait for others to catch up; we must lead by example. Only bold action holds any hope for a future in which our children do not return to the world where it was commonplace for parents to bury more children than they see reach adulthood.
As the fifth-largest global economy with a wide reach we bear a unique responsibility. Celebrating minor achievements while global emissions soar is unacceptable. It's time to act resolutely and without delay, as such this council requests:
The government immediately convene a COBRA meeting to develop a comprehensive and urgent action plan to tackle the climate crisis.
Our elected representatives pass legislation that unequivocally prioritises climate crisis mitigation above all other considerations, for both public and private organisations, with acting to the contrary a crime punishable to the maximum extent allowable under UK law.
Our elected representatives must pass legislation that makes any fossil fuel investments, both public and private illegal, and to hold such investments a crime punishable to the maximum extent allowable under UK law.
This council must ensure that climate crisis considerations take precedence in all planning decisions made within our jurisdiction, regardless of the risk of appeals.
Council members who sit on the board of the Dorset Pension Fund coordinate swiftly removing all funds invested in fossil fuels, signalling a commitment to a cleaner and more sustainable future. We understand Dorset Council needs to ‘catch-up’ with BCP on this.
We understand the challenges, but we cannot allow political point-scoring, corruption, or bureaucracy to deter us. Let's unite and act decisively, transforming the present crisis into an opportunity to lead change on an unprecedented scale. The time to act is now, there is no alternative.”
Certainly when it comes to the fourth bullet point I need to properly hammer out the risks of instructing the planning committee to stop making ridiculous decisions, and then following through on such an instruction. The first hurdle appears to be that even if they sensibly reject an application because we are literally on the verge of the biggest crisis ever experienced by humankind and need to rejig our priorities that the appeal process is fairly quick and could be done by some shortsighted bureaucrat who is totally out of touch with reality. So far I’ve been told doing so poses ‘significant financial and reputational risks’, but given the alternative is risking the very ability of the planet to support human life I find it unlikely once we actually drill down into what that statement means it’ll outweigh it. That said I am going to try and outline more clearly with officer help what this specific course of action will look like to help make discussing this easier with the other less rational councillors who manage to imagine there are other concerns more pressing than climate change.
I do try to avoid banging on about the science of the topic too much, there are much better informed people on the topic and I think now everyone has made up their mind on the topic. But on the off chance you read my blog without already sharing my concerns about the climate crisis I really think you should check out these resources to get a grasp of how close we potentially are to ecological collapse
Within this context business as usual just isn’t an option. Regardless of your thoughts on ULEZ (I’m personally not keen on fines for individuals, as it isn’t individuals driving climate change, and implies pollution by the rich isn’t a problem) it and similar solutions proposed by the traditional parties are not sufficient to stop climate change.
We need to show genuine leadership here, and get on with taking the required actions. Rather than starting from a point of what is possible within the existing legal, regulatory and political frameworks in my mind we need to start from what is necessary, and then change those frameworks as required.
I think the 2nd uncomfortable truth I try to explain in the motion, the fact that we will pass the point of no return long before we know we have passed the point of no return is the most existentially terrifying concept humans have ever encountered, one we are culturally and biologically totally unequipped to deal with. I can no more keep this idea in my head than I can do differential equations in my head. Once I’ve finished writing this I’ll go about my normal daily life doing fairly normal things, rather than run out into the street screaming that the world is about to end. I’m not sure if that’s a good thing on the whole given where we are, but there you go.
Anyhow in less depressing news here is an update on my actions:
1. Neighbourhood plan for Moordown
Previous DEADLINE 21st July - have sent ward newsletter to print
Well frustratingly I’ve not got this off to print, we currently have a capacity gap in terms of media and comms production which we are working to fill. I’ve had a go myself, but the results are pretty poor. Luckily we’ve put out a call for other volunteers and another wonderful soul has come forward, so hopefully we’ll have something sent to print soon.
I’ve also had a few people come forward on twitter which is great, I’ve made a list and I’ll make sure to hassle them once we’ve got a list of interested parties in setting up the functional residents association / group to come up with the neighbourhood plan / whatever you want to call it (I’m hoping that at the end of the neighbourhood plan process whatever group of individuals comes together to do that continues to meet in some way, be a shame to lose that energy).
I’ve also been pointed towards Mike XXXXXX as someone involved previously in getting neighbourhood plans off the ground so I’ve fired a couple of questions at him, and hope to meet for a coffee or beer and a chat when things are a bit calmer what with the limited childcare we’ve got access to over the summer break.
NEW DEADLINE 11th August - Check progress of ward newsletter laying out and ordering
2. Moordown Rec
Previous DEADLINE 21st July - have sent ward newsletter to print
Again this has been frustrated by my inability to layout the newsletter.
I’ve had a slightly confusing, but very welcome email from one of the officers involved saying we can now get the equipment replaced, without either resorting to dipping into CIL funding or waiting for the play strategy. I’ll wait for clarification though as while this is welcome, I’m always sceptical about good news.
3. Anti Social Behaviour on Wimborne Road
Previous DEADLINE 1st August - have date in diary for next BH9 business forum meeting and confirmation that police will be in attendance
Well this is a fairly embarrassing update, as again I’m beyond the deadline without completing the agreed action. I’ve reached out to Fern Graham with the date of the next meeting finally (21st of September), but I’ve dragged my heels being sick this week. Still once I was aware of the date for the September meeting I was a bit less worried about getting this done as it’s so far off.
Interestingly I’ve asked for the alcohol licence of a premises to be called in as a result of its part in encouraging anti-social behaviour in the BCP area and have been surprised at the response from the senior licensing officer the chair of the committee has given me. I’ve been asked to give more detail on my concerns, and told that we typically approach licence holders with a warning first before calling them in giving them the chance to improve.
I know one problem organisations face is new staff coming in, not understanding the complexities of the place, and trying to impose ideas that don’t work as they have an incomplete understanding of how things actually work. However I can’t say that this approach sounds sensible to me in any way.
This ‘warn first with all the details’ approach inevitably encourages a reactive approach from licensing holders, and I think needs to be examined and changed ASAP. I spent years line managing various individuals, and if someone was involved in a fuck up you’d always ask them about it in the most general terms at first, as a big part of assessing if they were likely to fuck up again was their ability to have already identified the issue after the fact without you pointing this out to them.
Anyhow I’ve sent the required moany emails off to the officer, and have whacked something off to Kieron Wilson as the cabinet member for licensing. It looks like we don’t have a particularly data driven process here at all.
I think as a condition of holding an alcohol licence maybe a regular electronic submission to the council or an organisation like the Dorset Information Integration Service (I think that’s the DiiS, although I think one of those i’s might be Insights instead, too many acronyms). This could detail
How much alcohol has been sold
How many times have customers been IDed
How many times have customers been turned away due to lacking ID
How many units of alcohol have been stolen
What stolen items from the shop have been recovered by police
Of alcohol or other goods confiscated by police from street / underage drinkers how many were sold / stolen from the premises
This data exists, I’m frustrated it isn’t at my fingertips as a councillor for the area.
Anyhow I think that needs splitting out into two new separate actions as below.
4. Proactive Licensing
Deadline 1st Sept - obtain document setting out best practice on identifying and investigation of potential breaches of licence conditions related to alcohol
5. Licensing Data Collection
Deadline 1st Sept - Arrange meeting between relevant parties to discuss adoption of a more data driven approach to licensing
6. Traffic Calming
Previous DEADLINE - 1st August assess survey progress and determine actions to push things forward
Kate has been picking this up with part of her work on getting a new crossing on Charminster Road, as we’ve got enough evidence of support for 20 mph limits on one of the three streets with the other two still needing us to get out and knock on doors. We’re trying to figure out who in the highways team can actually get something done. We found our emails were frequently ignored when we were voluntary busy bodies just whinging at the council as members of the public, but that’s still continuing now we are professional busy bodies as councillors which is very frustrating. It is stark how overworked and under resourced every bit of the council is. It took me 4 weeks plus to get an ID badge for god’s sake.
We still have more surveying to do, but similarly this is very tied in to getting the newsletter out
NEW DEADLINE 11th August - Check progress of ward newsletter laying out and ordering
7. Get some more litter picks in the diary
Also in the newsletter, dates are going to be
Sunday 10 September, 11am-12pm - Meeting point: outside the United Reformed Church on Sutton Road
Saturday 11 November, 10-11am - Meeting point: outside Moordown Coop on Wimborne Road
8. Explore the possibility of walk to school litter picks with local schools
No change here.
DEADLINE - 1st Oct - chase schools
9. Labour Candidate Complaint
I’ve had acknowledgement of my complaint about Labours Parliamentary candidate Tom Hayes after he was caught pinching our leaflets in Moordown. Since then nothing, I’ve been meaning to chase Sharon on this, as if they really are simply going to ignore this we’ll have to lodge a complaint with the police, be nice to know for definite if they are genuinely okay with this kind of behaiour from a candidate. Quite why they might think someone with such poor moral character would make a decent MP is beyond me, but I guess Labour is fundamentally broken. I still can't believe they won't oppose the new North Sea oil and gas licences, if they did it'd render the project economically unviable and we could all breath a sigh of relief. Don't even get me started on the Tories environmental record.
Deadline - contact police to make formal complaint by end of September if Labour are not willing to take any action
8. Planters Saga
The state of the planters along the stretch of Wimborne Road that runs through Moordown is very depressing. I must reiterate the disclaimer at the top of the blog, this is something Kate is picking up as has ended up requiring a lot of interacting with Council Officers within office hours while I’m working.
The situation we inherited was a bit muddled to say the least. As far as we understand it, responsibility for the provision of planting in the hanging baskets and planters along Wimborne Road lies with BH9 Business Community, who direct all planting with the support of the council. However it appears that the 2023 floral displays were actually ordered by the previous ward councillors very shortly before the May election (despite the order deadline being back in January). Kate has tried to contact the council department responsible for planting and maintaining the displays but has had no response in three months. The hanging baskets have been planted, but nothing has been planted in the floor mounted wrought iron planters. A number of the concrete planters contain perennial trees and shrubs, but the remainder also stand empty at present. An update received from council officers this week seems to indicate that the intention is for the rest of the planters to be stocked within the next four weeks, although it is unclear whether this refers to both the wrought iron and the empty concrete planters.
According to the chair of BH9 Business Community, the previous Moordown councillors had agreed to pay for this year’s planting and maintenance of the planters in our ward using Neighbourhood CIL funds. Again according to the chair, the previous year’s bill is still unpaid. It’s not currently clear if the former councillors also intended the 2022 bill to be paid from CIL, were paying for this out of their own pockets or in fact planted bulbs in the planters themselves and believe there to be no bill left to pay. I have reached out to one of them, but they don’t answer their phone or return my calls and seem to only want to engage in bad faith on Twitter. Such is politics I guess.
Anyhow ultimately it appears we will have to pay this year’s bill (and possibly last year’s) from CIL funds, which is not ideal but is a legacy decision made by the previous ward councillors. We need to get more clarity on the situation with BH9 Business Community going forward and make a proper plan for next year and beyond. This is likely to involve a frank conversation as to whose responsibility it is to fund the floral displays along the high street. Neighbourhood CIL money is precious - it is the only permanent pot of money available to Moordown residents and community groups specifically to fund local improvements. While our high street is important, it is not the beginning and end of our community and we must ensure that others have fair access to funding for projects in other parts of the ward.
My preferred solution would be to plant perennials in all the concrete planters as this would be more sustainable and better value.
Given it’d be ideal to have a consistent approach all along the high street we’ll reach out to the councillors for Winton East and Wallisdown and Winton West asking if they could attend the next BH9 Business forum to discuss this, as we’ll need to work together on this to get something sensible done. I’m sure any former councillors who wished to attend with some useful input would also be very welcome.
Anyhow we are off to the Mary Rose as our wet activity for the day, I’ll hopefully have a much more positive update to give next week where I’ll be firing on all cylinders rather than ill and miserable