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Contact: Emma James/ Jo Weston Overview and Scrutiny Officers
Apologies and Welcome
The Chairman welcomed everyone to the Meeting, which had been rescheduled from 21 July 2020 due to technical difficulties, and confirmed the arrangements for the remote meeting.
Apologies had been received from Cllr Vale and Cllr A Amos, Cabinet Member with Responsibility for Highways.
Declarations of Interest and of any Party Whip
Members of the public wishing to take part should notify the Assistant Director for Legal and Governance in writing or by email indicating the nature and content of their proposed participation no later than 9.00am on the working day before the meeting (in this case 3 August 2020). Enquiries can be made through the telephone number/email address below.
The Chairman reported that 8 members of the public had submitted a question or comment in advance of the Meeting and confirmed that all submissions had been circulated to Members. A summary of the key points from the participants in attendance at the meeting was as follows:
· Mr Whiting referred to a Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy Survey from May this year, which highlighted that 76% of the population was concerned or very concerned about climate change and that he was aligned with this concern.
· Failure to act on climate change would have an economic consequence, with the Bank of England stating that climate risk was also a source of financial risk.
· Mr Measham acknowledged that Worcestershire County Council (the Council) had a plan to become carbon neutral by 2050 but was concerned that it had not declared a climate emergency, unlike other local authorities, such as Bromsgrove District Council, which was a missed opportunity.
· A recent Met Office report stated that there was now a 20% chance of the world temporarily reaching 1.5°C in the next five years and suggested that the Council should be describing this as an “Emergency” and leading the way for the County.
Pam McCarthy (the Chairman referred to the written submission as the participant attended the 21 July meeting which was abandoned due to technical difficulties and was unable to attend the rescheduled date)
· Whilst acknowledging and welcoming the work of the Council to date in tackling climate change, further progress was required at a faster rate. The Council’s current work programme and role in responding to the Government Report which stated that current rate of activity would not achieve targets by 2050 was questioned.
· The progress of neighbouring Councils, Herefordshire and Gloucestershire was highlighted.
· Much of the business sector was waiting for the Council to articulate plans for a sustainable future and an offer of signposting to good examples of progress was made.
· Dr Boatright talked about how heat and electricity was produced from waste and that both Germany and Sweden were harnessing the opportunity to a much greater extent than the UK.
· The work of Professor Martin Freer of the University of Birmingham (and Director of the Birmingham Energy Institute and the Energy Research Accelerator) was referred to, noting that the UK generated 0.64 MWh/tonne of waste compared to Germany which generated 1.2 and Sweden 2.98 MWh/tonnes. Dr Boatright questioned how the Council planned to rectify this.
· Mr Cooke acknowledged that the Council had embraced sustainable and active travel, however, suggested that the current building of new roads and developments contradicted the existing programme.
· It was suggested that any new homes should be built to exacting standards, preferably PassivHaus, otherwise they would need an expensive retrofit to restrain emissions in the future. Norwich’s award-winning Goldsmith Street scheme was referred to.
· The Council needed to do more to raise the profile of climate change to residents, highlighting the long-term benefits, such as green space ... view the full minutes text for item 380.
Confirmation of the Minutes of the previous meeting
The Minutes of the Meeting held on 19 June 2020 were agreed as a correct record and would be signed by the Chairman.
Officers attending for this Item were Liz Alston, Sustainability Manager (Worcestershire County Council) and Luke Willets, Director of Operations (Worcestershire Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP)).
A detailed presentation had been circulated with the Agenda Papers.
The key points included:
· Worcestershire County Council (the Council) had a history of raising awareness of Climate Change and reducing carbon emissions through a number of strategies, written independently or in partnership, including with the LEP
· Projects included biomass heat at County Hall, solar panels on over 50 Council buildings (mainly schools), electric pool cars and sustainable new builds, such as the Hive in Worcester City
· In May 2019, UK Parliament declared a Climate Emergency and the Government committed to achieving net zero carbon emissions by 2050, recognising that much of this reduction must happen by 2030
· Worcestershire’s CO2 emissions had dropped from 4.6m tonnes in 2005 to 3.3m tonnes in 2018, with 49% of the 3.3m tonnes of emissions currently coming from transport
· According to the UK local authority and regional carbon dioxide emissions national statistics: 2005-2018 & WCC emissions data, the Council had indirect control of around 37,000 tonnes of CO2 emissions (i.e. waste, highways and fleet contracts) and around 12,000 tonnes direct control (i.e street lighting, property, vehicles etc). However, it had an influencing role in respect of around 2.6m tonnes which was emitted through local transport, homes and businesses etc
· Household waste accounted for around 67% of the CO2 emissions attributed to the County Council in 2018/19
· A number of actions to lower or offset emissions were already underway, including energy efficiency measures in buildings and street lighting, the purchasing of green energy and a tree planting scheme
· The Worcestershire LEP Energy Strategy (launched in March 2019) aimed for a 50% reduction in countywide carbon emissions by 2030, to triple renewable energy generation and to double the size of its low carbon economy, which meant that Worcestershire would need to adapt over the coming years
· The LEP had a key role to play in identifying, co-ordinating and influencing opportunities and had a track record of strong stakeholder engagement and business representation, whereas the Council had a key role in development of strategy and was instrumental in project development and implementation, including lobbying and securing funding
· 15 new projects directly related to the targets and themes of energy strategy were underway to an estimated value of £50m and approximately 28,000 tonnes of carbon reduced per year when completed
· Global temperatures were set to rise, with warmer wetter winters, hotter drier summers, increased rainfall and flooding and heatwaves predicted. The Council had initiated a Joint Impact Assessment process which included consideration of the impact of severe weather and climate change, for any new Council project
· Government strategies and consultations were moving on at pace and action locally was required.
In the ensuing discussion, the following points were made:
The Infrastructure Asset Manager and Lighting Engineer talked through the Agenda Report, highlighting that the information provided had built on that presented at the previous session on 5 March 2019.
Attention was drawn to the following areas:
· In areas affected by the ‘Part Night Switch Off’ initiative, around 8,000 LED lanterns had been fitted over the last 2 years to replace obsolete low pressure sodium (SOX) lanterns. Despite these lanterns now burning all night, the annual 595,000 kwh saving was around £80,068 per annum, based on 13.445p per kwh
· Regarding possible anti-social behaviour and other crimes being associated with the part night switch off scheme, the Lighting Team had been in liaison with West Mercia Police. Generally turning off street lighting in the majority of areas had little or no impact on crime and disorder, but just occasionally a hot spot occurred and was addressed. on an agreed case by case basis.
· The Street Lighting Programme (Phase 3) for 2020/21 and 2021/22 had been allocated a further £1m per year to roll out additional SOX to LED lanterns, however, no extra capital funding had been awarded, therefore only current maintenance funds would enable replacements to continue, on a worst first basis
· Concrete columns were being reassessed and ranked from 1 (good condition) to 5 (requires immediate attention). The Panel was reminded that around 700 had been replaced to date and there were no category 5 or 4 columns currently. In the last year 387 had been replaced and it was anticipated that a further 300 would be replaced
· Officers were disappointed to report that a ‘retro fit’ lamp, which had been used to directly replace an old SOX lamp in an existing lantern, had become unreliable and was therefore no longer used. This had resulted in a more costly and time consuming process as the whole lantern had to be replaced
· Prysmian, the Council’s Lighting Maintenance Contractor, had not been able to complete all of the anticipated LED conversions by 31 March 2020, partly due to individual faults occurring due to failing SOX lanterns and also the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Panel noted that Prysmian crews had worked throughout the national lockdown, however, productivity had slowed in line with government guidance and additional precautions
· By September there would be 23,000 LED lamps in Worcestershire representing 42% of the total number of streetlights equalling the national average for conversions
· Problems with access continued to be of concern, for example in alleyways or divorced footways when hydraulic platforms were unable to access the area. This was a particular issue in Redditch and was a Council priority. A safe ladder solution had been developed by Prysmian and a programme of activity had been developed
· An identified trial site in Worcester City, combining street lighting and electric vehicle charging, had unfortunately not been suitable
· Customer complaint management had been improved following feedback from the previous Scrutiny session and the public were now informed in a timelier manner, in addition to external influences ... view the full minutes text for item 383.
Due to time constraints, this Item was deferred. The Chairman reminded the Panel that performance and budget monitoring was also scheduled for the next meeting, however, Members were asked to submit any questions on the presented information to Scrutiny Officers.
The Panel had been asked to refresh its Work Programme for 2020-21 in advance of Council approval on 10 September 2020.
Members agreed to prioritise the following topics, in addition to those areas already scheduled:
· Identification and review of diversionary routes (including routes affected by major roadworks). This could include notification to residents on roads affected through social media, electronic signage, controlling traffic at pinch points etc
· Cycling Update (following on from 8 May 2019 Panel Meeting)
· Briefing on Ringway Contract
· Visit to Lydiate Ash Depot – to see real time reporting.