Havering Climate Change Action Plan upheld by scrutiny board despite criticisms

A total of £20,000 has been given to Havering voluntary and community organisations as part of the first round of funding...

Romford Town Hall - Credit: Adriana Elgueta

Debate over a climate action plan was cut short as an attempt to go back to the drawing board was rejected. 

Havering Council’s overview and scrutiny board met on December 7 to discuss the merits of the local authority's Climate Change Action Plan, which was initially approved last month but subsequently "called in" for scrutiny. 

Little more than an hour into the discussion, a motion was put forward to take the matter to a vote, which was carried by a vote of eight to seven, with chair Cllr Darren Wise abstaining. 

Councillors then voted nine to seven to uphold the plan. 

Cllr Keith Darvill, leader of the Labour group, said the length of debate was “absolutely disgraceful”. 

“This is a call in that has taken place with plenty of reasons why. We’ve only been going for about an hour, on the most important issue of the day,” he said. 

Cllr Keith Darvill

Cllr Keith Darvill, leader of the Labour group on the council - Credit: Archant

The action plan – approved by cabinet and full council last month – set out the council’s plan for becoming carbon neutral by 2040, ten years ahead of the government’s statutory requirement. 

It includes proposals to review the borough’s vehicle fleet, develop a cycling and walking strategy and retrofit buildings to improve energy performance. 

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Those who called the plan in to the meeting cited the reasons as "failures" to estimate costs, prioritise actions, consult residents or outline how monitoring will be carried out. 

During the debate, a representative for Extinction Rebellion Havering, who was introduced as Keane, criticised the “vague, passive manner” of the action plan.  

He said: “The council has voted not to declare a climate emergency because it believes in action not just words; however, we have been provided with an action plan that is just full of words and not action."

Corporate projects manager  at Havering Council, Nick Kingham, said the plan did not go into too much detail because it was a “strategic report”.  

“Not everything can be settled and decided at the beginning of a programme like this but setting a key goal, and one that is ambitious, is a crucial element,” he said. 

Councillor Damian White, leader of Havering Council. Picture: Mark Sepple/Havering Council

Council leader Cllr Damian White - Credit: Mark Sepple

He added performance would be reported to cabinet twice yearly, and he welcomed scrutiny of these reports. 

Council leader Cllr Damian White said he is “immensely proud” of the plan and claimed all such council action plans are “generalist and high level because no one at this point has all the answers”.