Like many Councils up and down the country, Chesterfield Borough Council passed a Climate Emergency Motion in July after the Labour administration was re-elected in May. There is a long history here of environmental damage from heavy industry.
We’ve often been at the sharp end of air pollution and soil contamination especially in our more deprived areas. Locally Labour have long put protecting our community at the heart of our policies.
As a landlord of over 9,000 properties we’ve been tackling fuel poverty and carbon reduction by insulating our homes, installing solar panels, and replacing roofs and windows, spending over £62m in the last 4 years.
Despite this we know there is more that the Council can do, but it’s not possible for us to do this alone. We have to work with our neighbouring district authorities, the Conservative run Derbyshire County Council, local business and the rest of the public sector. All of which presents challenges as we all see the issues and solutions differently.
More importantly though we know we don’t have all the answers, so we decided to set up a Climate Change Working Group drawn from the local community to help us come up with an action plan. We put a call out on social media, local press and radio. We were bowled over by the response when over a hundred people contacted us.
We included people with as many different life experiences as possible when we chose the final group. It was important to ensure that different parts of our borough were represented including trade unionists, businesses and parents. This week we have met for the first time. I hope this group will not only help us look at this from our different communities’ points of view but also be ambassadors about the need for all of us to change.
Here in Chesterfield there has been criticism on social media of why the Council is doing this and it’s clear that not everyone in our Borough agrees that Climate Change is an emergency. We need to bring these people with us to see that Climate Change affects our most vulnerable communities the hardest, so it is absolutely what a Labour Council should be prioritising even in this time of austerity and cuts.