To consider the recommendations made by Cabinet or Committees since the last ordinary Council meeting relating to the following matters:
1. Cabinet: adoption of the Croydon Libraries Plan 2019 – 20;
2. Ethics Committee: amendments to the Protocol on Staff-Member relations; and
3. Cabinet: adoption of the revised Tenders and Contracts Regulations.
The Mayor invited the Leader, Councillor Newman, to move the recommendations contained in the Climate Change report. The Leader moved the recommendations stating that these were needed to respond to the public health and ecological emergency being caused by climate change and would ensure action to address climate change would be embedded straight into the policy making process. It was emphasised that this wasn’t about charging more for parking permits for larger vehicles but rather about the young and elderly being admitted to hospital with breathing related difficulties and other health concerns linked to air quality.
The Leader emphasised that the purpose of the recommendations wasn’t just about addressing the effects of climate change in Croydon but about acknowledging what happened locally could also affect communities around the world with reference being made to flooding in places such as Bangladesh. It was stressed that the recommendations would allow the needs of future generations to be put before shareholder gains and that it was time for action in Croydon, on which basis the Leader stated that he was proud to move the recommendations.
The recommendations in the report were seconded by Councillor King, the Cabinet Member for Environment, Transport and Regeneration (Job-Share).
The Mayor informed the Members of Council that in accordance with Part 4A of the Constitution, notification had been received from the Majority Group of its request for the Climate Change recommendations to be deferred for debate. The Chief Executive read the referral request: “We move the amendment of recommendation 1.5 to reflect the declaration of a climate change and ecological emergency”.
The Mayor invited Councillor Sirisena to move the amendment to the recommendations contained in the report. Councillor Sirisena explained how it was the action that would be taken immediately that would ensure the survival of the planet and was an intergenerational mission. It was highlighted that there was a need to do locally what must be done nationally. A Green New Deal for Croydon was described and it was stressed how this couldn’t be imposed from above but rather needed to be developed in partnership with local residents. Councillor Sirisena envisioned workers, employers, unions and residents working together to develop a Green Deal that would also deliver well paid jobs and bring Green Industry and pride to Croydon. It was noted that this would see a move away from the domination of the carbon industry with congratulations being given to the administrators of the Croydon Pension Fund who had already signalled their intention to make this change. It was suggested that Croydon could set-up its own green energy firm as had been done by Islington Council. Councillor Sirisena called for a borough-wide consensus to prioritise spending on green energy and to build solidarity across all communities. It was noted that it was black communities who were suffering most from the effects of poor air quality and therefore how those communities should be front and centre of a Green New Deal which was required to achieve racial equality in the borough. Councillor Sirisena also noted how what was happening in Croydon affected communities around the world. It was described how national Government Policy, such as increasing taxes on solar panels, was hindering action to tackle climate change with the call for a Labour Government to work alongside a Labour Council. In conclusion, the Councillor quoted that we don’t inherit the Earth from our ancestors that we borrow it from our children.
Councillor Degrads seconded the motion to amend the recommendations in the report and reserved the right to speak.
Councillor King, as the responsible Cabinet Member, was invited to speak by the Mayor on the motion to amend the recommendations in the report. The Cabinet Member described how the Administration had set out its plans on how to address climate change in its 2018 manifesto including stopping use of herbicides, increasing tree planting, taking tough action on vehicle emissions, prioritising the Council’s walking and cycling programme, divesting in carbon from the Croydon Pension Fund and installing electric charging points. However, Councillor King acknowledged that the growing climate change emergency had helped create focus and generated a re-evaluation of policy with the emphasis on acting as quick and forcibly as the powers of the Council would allow. It was described how Croydon would be joining other Councils to go carbon neutral by no later than 2030. The Cabinet Member though was sanguine and acknowledged that targets do not in themselves achieve climate change. This would be the product of action. It was described how his personal passion was to get Croydon walking more and driving less but that personal endeavours will not do enough; it was for the state to act. The Cabinet Member stressed that climate change was as much a call to those in local government as much as those in national government and that there was no free pass based on lack of funding. It was highlighted that the hope was to be able to agree the recommendations as amended on a cross party basis as political leadership was necessary and the call made to show the determination and courage needed.
Councillor Perry was invited by the Mayor to respond on the recommendations as amended. The Councillor welcomed the discussion on climate change but noted that the Opposition had not been afforded the same opportunity to debate the hidden library closures which was described as an affront to democracy.
The Leader, Councillor Newman, interjected to provide a note of personal explanation and to state there were no library closures being proposed or planned.
Councillor Perry resumed and noted that the Climate Change report had been taken to the Cabinet meeting as an urgent item and that a procedural motion had been used to debate the report rather than using the Council Debate Motion. It was questioned if this had been an appropriate action. It was stressed that addressing climate change was about actions and not words and that at the same time as the amended recommendations were being moved, Brick By Brick was building on green spaces and destroying natural ecology. Councillor Perry described how no differentiation was being made in parking charges for hybrid as opposed to diesel vehicles. Whilst the recommendations were perceived as well meaning, Councillor Perry noted the devil being in the detail.
Councillor Creatura was invited by the Mayor to respond on the recommendations as amended. The Councillor noted the Conservative Party had been a global leader since the Thatcher era on the issue of the environment; the Government was cutting emissions at a faster rate than other Governments and was now bringing in a national target to achieve zero emissions. Councillor Creatura noted the two thirds drop in coal use achieved by the Government and the growth in renewables that had been achieved. Two million green jobs had also been achieved. However, Councillor Creatura noted that the Conservative Party was not complacent. It was described how a Labour Government and its renationalisation policy would disrupt this progress with private sector investment in green technology being lost. It was recorded that the Confederation of British Industry had described how much needed investment was drying up under Labour threats. It was noted that under the previous Labour Government the UK had been at the bottom of G20 ranking for green investment. Councillor Creatura stated that it was good that the Labour Administration was seeking to change its track records on climate change. The promise to work with communities was welcomed but it was again stressed that it was deeds not words that were important. Councillor Creatura described how the Opposition would work with the Administration on action to address climate change but also continue to hold it to account. It was stressed that failure was not an option.
Councillor Tim Pollard was invited by the Mayor to respond on the recommendations as amended. It was described how the Government had set impressive targets for a reduction in emissions but that the challenge had to be grasped. Councillor Pollard highlighted how the report had been subject to little discussion or debate when introduced at Cabinet and that the deferral debate had been cynically achieved by changing very few words in the recommendations. It was noted that local authority established Climate Commissions had been talking shops but hadn’t achieved a great deal. Councillor Pollard raised the issue of air quality in schools and questioned the Administration’s decision to build a school on the Purley Way. In conclusion, Councillor Pollard noted that in a spirit of cross party working he was happy to support the recommendations as amended.
Councillor Degrads was invited by the Mayor to speak to the recommendations as amended. It was noted that this was not just a motion but would be embedded in policy. This was being done on behalf of the one in five households in the borough with asthma - the highest level of incidence of asthma in London. Councillor Degrads also highlighted the link between air quality and mental health. It was explained that the Administration was advocating for children in the borough which was reflected in existing policy. Hence the focus on not having to travel too far to a good school, reduction in single use plastics, increasing doorstep recycling, increasing plants in the borough, backing bees and the Croydon Pension Fund divesting in carbon. This showed how the Administration was already putting a green focus at the heart of its policy. Councillor Degrads explained how the NHS could not afford the impact of air quality on health, that therefore a collective approach was required and that the Administration was embracing the challenge. Councillor Degrads noted that Croydon was showing it was listening and would empower all to do their bit in the fight against climate change.
The Mayor put the recommendations as amended to the vote which were agreed.
The remaining recommendations from Cabinet and Committees for decision, namely Croydon’s Culture and Libraries Plans, Protocol on Staff-Member relations and revised Tenders and Contracts Regulations were subject to the Guillotine motion and were immediately put to the vote with all being approved.
RESOLVED: Council AGREED the recommendations in the reports to:
1. Croydon’s Culture and Libraries Plans:
1.1. Adoption of the Croydon Libraries Plan 2019 – 20, Appendix 1A.
2. Ethics Committee and the Protocol on Staff-Member relations:
2.1. The Protocol on Staff-Member relations, Part 5B of the Constitution, be updated to include, as detailed in the paper, a definition of bullying and harassment.
3. Delivering for Residents through Sustainable and Ethical Commissioning – revised Tenders and Contracts Regulations:
3.1. Adoption of the revised Tenders and Contracts Regulations, Part 4 of the Constitution (Appendix 3A).