Last year then council leader Peter Chowney said climate change was “The biggest challenge facing the council.”
Just 15 months after passing what was seen to be a radical climate emergency motion and appointing a special cabinet member with responsibility for climate change there’s grave concern this week that Hastings Borough Council (HBC) is back pedalling on its commitment to protect the environment and fight climate change.
Julia Hilton from Hastings Green Party says her party is “shocked” to see that in the recent re-organisation of the council’s powerful decision-making cabinet the climate change portfolio has been abolished.
The council passed its climate emergency motion in February 2019 and just weeks later Hollington Councillor Maya Evans was given a cabinet seat and the title of ‘lead member for climate change, biodiversity and sustainable development.’
Last week HBC’s new leader, Kim Forward, made a number of significant changes to her cabinet and Ms Evans was given a new title and is now lead member for ‘natural environment and leisure’.
“This sounds as if the main focus is ensuring we can all enjoy a nice walk in the park,” Ms Hilton told Hastings In Focus this week.
“While climate action should be at the heart of every cabinet member’s focus, it seems significant that no-one is championing this specifically.
…the climate action plan that has so far been proposed was approved with little publicity… and so far there seems to be little appetite to consult or engage in the plans outlined in the document.
“This sits alongside the complete lack of ambition in the current climate action plan and the fact that climate change is still separated out as an action from the economic recovery of our town when it needs to be integral to every decision.
“All in all, it is very clear that HBC is merely paying lip service to the idea that we are in a climate emergency. We understand that the recent priority has had to be responding to Covid-19 but the recovery process from this pandemic has to put climate action at the heart of every plan.
“We also note that the climate action plan that has so far been proposed was approved with little publicity in the middle of the pandemic and so far there seems to be little appetite to consult or engage in the plans outlined in the document.
“The Hastings Community Hub is making a start on bringing the community together to make plans for the future. Let’s hope that kicking the Conservatives out of the cabinet is not a sign of less willingness by our new council leader to engage in the essential cross party and town wide conversation that is so urgently needed,” Ms Hilton said.
Councillor Rob Lee, leader of the opposition Conservative group and until last Monday one of two Conservative members of HBC’s cabinet says: “When you look at the new cabinet you can see that there are strange changes.
“Gone is the much heralded ‘Climate Change’ portfolio which had far reaching power across the authority, which presumably means Labour is not as concerned about the climate as they used to be.
“Also gone is ‘Community Engagement’ proving to all what many already knew, that the Labour leadership are not keen to engage with the community.”
Talking to Hastings In Focus last year about her climate change role Ms Evans said: “My role overarches everything within the council from housing to waste disposal, to how the council is run, plastics used within the council… my remit involves everything.”
Hear Ms Evans full interview about her climate change role by following the link below…
Hastings In Focus has emailed and telephoned the council’s new leader several times in the last week to ask about the changes made to the make-up of the cabinet but has received no response. When we spoke to Ms Evans she told us she was now unable to comment to us directly without having her remarks approved by the council’s leadership and communications team.
How good a job do you think Hastings Borough Council is doing on environmental issues? Leave your thoughts in the comment section below…