Paying lip service to climate change conference is an afront

EDDC headquarters at Blackdown House, Honiton

Calls made to resume physical meetings at EDDC headquarters - Credit: Archant

In October 2020, Conservative controlled Cumbria County Council decided to allow a new coal mine to be opened. There are estimated to be 750 million tonnes of coking coal underground which would be used for manufacturing steel, providing an estimated 500 jobs. However in February this year, Cumbria Council suspended its decision for review. An Inquiry has taken place which closed in October, and the Inspector’s decision will be made in January next year. Forty Conservative MPs have signed a letter in support of the proposal, yet the Prime Minister has said at the COP26 conference that he is ‘not in favour of more coal’. However the final decision will be made by Michael Gove, Communities Secretary, and it will be clearly an economical versus ecological outcome. We will bear witness to how seriously this Government is taking climate change, and whether finance or the planet is more important.

On a local footing, the Conservatives at East Devon District Council are urging the rest of us to resume physical meetings at Blackdown House, Honiton. Covid has changed the way that we work beyond recognition, with virtual Zoom or Skype meetings being held instead. It was challenging to begin with, and could be very stressful, especially for Chairs of Committees. I became Chair of Planning, so I had to conduct the Zoom meetings using an iPad, watching for electronic hands to be raised, a mobile phone for the script of running order and speakers, and another mobile for WhatsApp messages between Officers and myself. One meeting lasted six and a half hours! But we have adapted to the new ways, and it beats driving 37 miles across the commons, often at night.

To return to the physical meetings would drive up costs for mileage claims, and energy bills for the Council HQ. Let alone the harm to the environment. This is because we are bound by the Local Government Act 1972, way out of date, and not being reviewed in the foreseeable future. So there we have it, a Government and its local Councillors wanting to force us to go backwards to old ways of working, when current practices have proved much cheaper for taxpayers as well as being kinder to the planet. The hypocrisy of paying lip service to a climate change conference, while refusing the clear benefits of real change, is an affront. The Jurassic Coast has taken on a whole new meaning!