Councils

Sue’s comment about councillors and their policies (Proposal for Transition Tynedale Monthly Meeting) is interesting to me as I have just read the new book “Communities, Councils & a Low-Carbon Future (what we can do if governments won’t)” by Alexis Rowell, Published by  Transition Books.

The book argues that transition cannot move forward unless we are engaged with local councils. The book gives examples and advice on how to influence councils’ policies or to take an active part by being elected. One interesting example is Somerset Council, which in 2008 became the first Transition Council when the Council passed a motion  stating that it:

  1. Acknowledges the work done by communities in Somerset on Transition Towns, and that the independence of the Transition Movement is key to its grass roots appeal.
  2. As demonstrated in its Climate Change Strategy, fully endorses the Transition Town Movement and subscribes to the principles and ethos of the organisation’s goals to reduce dependence on fuel oil and create more sustainable communities.
  3. Commits to providing support and assistance to all towns in Somerset that wish to join this initiative to help them achieve the goals they set for themselves as local communities, as demonstrated under the ‘Community Initiatives’ section of the Climate Change Strategy.
  4. Therefore, requests the Scrutiny and Executive Committees to consider through the council’s strategic planning process; allocating funds to assist in achieving the outcomes of the Transition Towns Movement in Somerset and requiring all directorates to engage with and provide support for Transition Initiatives in Somerset
  5. Through the work outlined above, seeks to become the first Transition Authority in the UK.
    Agrees to undertake a review of its budgets and services to achieve a reduction in dependence on fuel oil and produce an energy descent action plan in line with the principles of the Transition Initiative.

Well, that’s powerful stuff! It was implemented and progress was made until the Council came under new (Conservative) control in 2009 and further progress was stopped.

Taunton Dene Borough Council received a visioning session and training (11 half days) from the local transition group (this was compulsory for all 350 staff and 26 councilors). One result was that all new housing (18,000 units) would have to be carbon neutral.  Planning has been refused if these standards have not been met.

In our own context, where are the (community owned?) solar panels  on the roof of the goods yard development? Perhaps we don’t want the development but if we have to accept it then we have to fight to make the “best of a bad job”. If Hexham Town council becomes a council that decides planning locally then we need to be on board.

The book is very thought-provoking and I agree with the main thrust that to make any worthwhile difference beyond raising awareness  the local councils have to be engaged and /or sympathetic people have to stand for election.

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