Agenda item

Biodiversity and Climate Change Review


The Head of Policy, Communications and Governance presented the report on establishing the Biodiversity and Climate Change Review in accordance with the Council Motion in April 2019.  As requested in June 2019 the report now included information on work by other local authorities which was extensive.  It also referenced the Overview and Scrutiny review from 2003 which contained key recommendations on climate change.  The review would look at what worked elsewhere and see if that learning could be incorporated locally.  £40k funding had previously been agreed by Policy and Resources Committee to provide officer support for the proposed working group.


The Committee was clear that this matter that had support from the whole Council and expressed a strong desire to see things move at pace.  The debate centred around the appropriate governance arrangements to achieve this.


Cllr Mortimer proposed and Cllr Mackay seconded the following motion:


i.  To establish a Maidstone Borough Council Climate and Ecological Emergency Working Group with immediate effect.


ii.  That the Maidstone Borough Council Climate and Ecological Emergency Working Group will undertake research and development activities to formulate a suite of recommendations to be presented to Policy and Resources Committee by April 2020 addressing the changes required across corporate policy and practice to deliver upon the principles of the Climate and Ecological Emergency Declaration.


iii.  The working group will comprises twelve members with:

Ø  Five drawn from the Council’s Elected Membership (i.e. one nominated from each of the five political groups, with a caveat that should the number of political groups represented on the Council change this calculation will need to be revisited);

Ø  Five drawn from named representatives of interested and/or expert stakeholders e.g. namely: an activist group representative; a business representative; a utilities representative; a landowning/farming representative; a nature conservation organisation representative;

Ø  Two independent members:

Local ecologist and resilience professional Louise Butfoy; and Honorary Alderman Fran Wilson;

Ø  The working group co-chairs will comprise Cllr. Paul Harper (as mover of Council motion) and Cllr. Tony Harwood (as instigator and chair of 2003 MBC Climate Change Review)


iv.  The working group will receive appropriate officer support from Maidstone Borough Council for two years i.e. one year to enable policy and practice formulation, including interviews with expert witnesses and site visits, and one year to undertake implementation monitoring and review.


v.  Associated on-costs such as expert witness expenses and stakeholder workshops or conferences will be drawn from identified £40k budget.


vi.  The working group will demonstrate community leadership by building a broad coalition for positive change in climate and ecological policy and practice in Maidstone Borough and seek partnerships and common purpose with areas beyond its borders.


vii.  The working group will ensure appropriate performance monitoring and review across project implementation and milestones.


viii.  The key working group aims will be achieving adaptation and resilience to global heating impacts, landscaping scale ecological recovery and practical action to reduce the individual carbon footprint of Maidstone Borough Council and their commissioned services, residents, businesses and public and voluntary sectors partners.


ix.  The conduct of the working group will be informed by successes and failures of the MBC 2003 Climate Change Review.


x.  The mission of the working group is to empower and inspire to make Maidstone Borough a community, national and international leader across sustainable business, land management and individual actions.


xi.  Working group meetings, including witness interviews, will be webcast and promoted, where appropriate, through MBC press releases.

When put to the vote the motion was lost with 7 votes for and 8 votes against.


Councillor Blackmore proposed and Cllr Gooch seconded the recommendation on the papers that would establish a working group in accordance with section 4 of the report set out below:


4.1  It is proposed that a working group is formed to undertake the review. The Committee will need to determine whether the group is politically balanced and/or represents all political groups on the council. The proposal is for a working group consisting of 9 Councillors subject to the rules of political balance, with group leaders being requested to nominate members on to the group.


4.2  As the subject matter is complex and cross-cutting it is recommended that the review group report back with conclusions by the last meeting of the municipal year 22 April 2020. Policy and Resources Committee could agree a different deadline and may also want to include on its agenda updates from the review group as the review progresses. A different number of councillors on the review group could also be considered by the Committee as well.


4.3  The review group, with officer support would set a scope for the review, to include the proposals put forward by Council on 10 April 2019, objectives and milestones. The review, on reaching conclusion, should propose actions to be agreed by Policy and Resources Committee. The constitution sets out that committees may go on site visits, conduct public surveys, hold public meetings, commission research and do all other things that they reasonably consider necessary to inform their deliberations. The review has been allocated a budget of £40,000 which would provide officer support and potentially a small budget for site visits and witness expenses.  Any additional expenditure would require approval from the Policy and Resources Committee.


4.4  The benefits of a Councillor review will be the ability to call expert witnesses to give evidence, a clear dedicated resource to support it, and that fact that it will ensure member led policy development on this complex and cross-cutting topic.


RESOLVED: That a Climate Change Inquiry led by a working group as set out in section 4 of the Biodiversity and Climate Change Review Report be agreed, with the aim to produce a report and action plan for approval by the meeting of Policy and Resources on 22 April 2020.


  Voting:  14 - For, 0 - Against, 1 -  Abstention


Supporting documents: