On Thursday night I had the honour of speaking in the budget debate and presenting the first Wokingham Borough Council budget to include investment dedicated to fighting Climate Change.

We have rightly put all projects and programmes that can help us combat climate change under one budget area, which now totals over £50million over three years.

This is the full text of what I said during the debate, plus the sources of the information that I quoted.

Budget Speech 20/02/2020

Mr Mayor, as of this morning 287 local authorities across Britain have declared a climate emergency.

To date few of those councils have declared a financial budget for their Climate Emergency actions plans. Of the ones that have,

• Oxford has committed £1m of operational funding and £18m of capital investment to address climate emergency.

• Northumberland have committed £10m in its medium-term financial plan to investing in renewable energy schemes and Climate change projects.

• Bradford council have allocated almost £25m of investments to tackle climate change, including £1m for waste and recycling schemes for businesses.

• Hampshire have so far allocated £1m to their plan to reach carbon neutrality by 2050.

• Wandsworth in London have allocated £5m to their ‘environmental strategy.’

• South Oxfordshire haven’t specified what proportion of their £17.6m budget will be spent on Climate Emergency, amongst other programmes and projects, but have stated that the budget is only for one year.

• Brighton & Hove, a Council lead by the Green party, allocated just £690,000 to sustainability projects in 2019.

Mr Mayor, the New Economics Foundation, in an article of 20th January, suggests that Governments need to be allocating between 2.5 & 5% of their spending to Climate Emergency if we are to stand a chance of reaching Carbon Neutral by 2050.

This budget shows Wokingham Borough Council committing almost 10% of our Medium-Term Financial Plan to climate emergency projects and to dramatically reducing our carbon footprint. It also, sensibly, brings together in one place all the projects and programmes that can impact on our carbon footprint giving us greater visibility and control over the work of the council in this crucial focus area.

Over the next three years this budget includes £2m for improving our public rights of way, making it easier for residents to walk around our borough.

There is a further £2m investment into our cycle network, coupled with £2.2m for greenways, giving our residents safe and in many cases traffic free means to walk or cycle between our towns and communities and to move around our borough.

This budget introduces £18m in entirely incremental spend for clean energy generation, giving us more control over our energy generation, storage and distribution.

There is £6m for park and ride schemes that will reduce traffic on some of our busiest roads and improve air quality as an additional benefit. Coupled with this, we are committing £13m for managing and reducing Congestion and the resulting pollution from our borough, by easing traffic flow and moving vehicles through our borough more efficiently.

We are investing in increasing biodiversity, and I have asked for a particular focus in increasing the bee population across our borough.

There is also continued investment in recycling as we work to identify new items we can reuse and recycle and aim for 70% of all our waste being recycled with Zero waste sent to landfill.

We are also entirely new investment into energy reduction programmes for our residents and small to medium sized businesses, as we work towards setting up our Green Bank scheme which will help residents to take ownership of their own carbon footprint and improve their energy efficiency.

Working with the experts at Reading University we will be measuring and monitoring the impact that all these programme items will have on our Carbon Footprint over the next decade and are fully committed to ensuring that we get the maximum return on our carbon investment.

Mr Mayor, this budget is a bold statement of intent from Wokingham Borough Council. It sets us apart as true leaders in this Climate Emergency and taking the type of dramatic action required to achieve our goal of Carbon Neutrality by 2030. We are putting our money where our mouth is. This is a budget for change, a plan for action and an investment in the long-term future of our community, our environment and our planet. I am delighted to present it tonight to our residents.

List of sources.

Councils declaring climate emergency www.climateemergency.uk/blog/list-of-councils

Oxford – https://www.climateemergency.uk/blog/oxford/

Northumberland – www.climateemergency.uk/blog/northumberland-2/

Bradford – https://www.climateemergency.uk/blog/bradford/

Hampshire – https://www.climateemergency.uk/blog/hampshire-2/

Wandsworth – https://www.climateemergency.uk/blog/wandsworth/

Brighton –  https://www.brightonhovegreens.org/2019/03/21/council-takes-new-steps-to-tackle-climate-emergency-following-green-budget-win/

South Oxfordshire – https://www.oxfordmail.co.uk/news/18205916.south-oxfordshires-budget-put-climate-emergency-first/

Carbon Budgeting – https://neweconomics.org/2020/01/budget-setting-in-a-climate-emergency

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