GREEN councillors have taken Warwickshire’s Levelling-Up plan to task for not containing any meaningful sustainability objectives.
Warwickshire County Council (WCC) set out its levelling up plan last month – aimed at creating equality across all communities in the county. The long-term hope is to irradicate the postcode lottery on where people live in terms of their prospects and quality of life. It is a national as well as a local policy.
The government’s national levelling up white paper currently has four objectives – to boost productivity, pay and living standards by growing the private sector, improve public services and spread opportunities – particularly in places where they were weakest, restore a sense of community and local pride, and to empower local leaders and communities.
There are additionally 12 national missions to help achieve these objectives with local councils able to select those missions most relevant to them.
Of the 12 national missions, Conservative-controlled WCC has identified four as being particularly relevant to the scope of the council. These include reducing crime, securing a devolution deal through a long-term financial settlement, improving residents’ pride in place and narrowing the gap between the top and bottom performing areas, and increasing investment and stimulating growth in research and development.
The approach has been shaped through engagement with key partner organisations, and will identify places and priorities for levelling up that affect the whole county or certain places, including those at a hyper-local level.
The levelling up plan was recently discussed at Warwick District Council’s (WDC) Overview and Scrutiny Committee where green councillors instantly took it to task.
Coun John Dearing pointed out there was not any specific mention of sustainable futures in any of the stated objectives.
Nor were relevant metrics provided that would help define the potential for districts and boroughs to achieve a sustainable future, for example the energy efficiency of existing housing stocks, air quality, or parish level carbon emissions.
He told the Observer: “Clearly, the county is not really intending to make sustainability a key part of the county’s levelling up objectives even though it’s claimed to be. This is particularly galling as sustainable futures as a priority had the strongest agreement in residents’ surveys.
“There are already significant differences in the levels of commitment and investment in climate change and environmental actions across the county. The county’s responsibility is to ensure that those differences are levelled-up so that the effects of climate and environmental deterioration do not fall disproportionately on the less well off.”
The scrutiny committee recommended WDC’s Cabinet formally noted, and made appropriate representations about the lack of reference to Sustainable Futures in WCC’s Levelling Up objectives.
A spokesperson for WCC defended the council’s position saying that ensuring future generations could like in a sustainable county was a central part of its levelling up programme. This included tackling climate change at its root causes and working with partners in a bid to make the county net zero by 2050.
The spokesperson added: “The delivery plan sets out a wide range of other actions to deliver the sustainable futures element of the levelling up approach, including our £1 million Green Shoots community climate change fund.”