Is democracy being served?-Ian Pirie Havering Friends of the Earth.

  • Major Glass and Glazing

Today, Ian Pirie Co-ordinator of Havering Friends of the Earth writes in the Havering Daily on Havering Council’s meeting on 17 November 2021 and notice of a new organisation Havering Climate Coalition.

I recently sat down to watch the video recording of the full council meeting on Weds 17th November. I have since re-watched sections of it.  I’m a reasonably intelligent and experienced person (I have a degree, and over 35 years experience teaching in FE and HE) and yet I remain mystified.  What was going on? What happened? 

The main item on the agenda was the newly-minted ‘Climate Action Plan.’ This was agenda item 7, which is what I wanted to hear about. Before we could get to this there were speeches in memory of a former much respected councillor Del Smith, and a couple of petitions, and the Leader of the Council put forward a motion concerning agenda item 12d (something to do with a controversy over a bridge between two parks).

There followed some 15 minutes of wrangling over procedures, during which the Monitoring Officer’s advice was sought more than once. The Mayor, who chairs these meetings, seemed out of his depth to say the least. 

More than once the Leader stood up to point out that they should have dealt with his motion – eventually, in the middle of discussion about whether to discuss the Climate Action Plan or not, the motion about the bridge was dealt with.

However, most of the wrangling was over what is known as a ‘call in’ of the Climate Action Plan: opposition councillors felt so strongly that the plan was inadequate that, as I understand it, they wanted to defer a debate and refer it back so that the authors – a ‘topic group’ and council officers could be properly questioned about it.  

Now usually, I believe, a call-in is voted on and, if passed,then there is no further discussion of the item.  Not so on Havering council: speeches were made proposing acceptance of the Climate Action Plan. Some said quite erroneously that Havering was one of the first London boroughs to have such a plan –  on the contrary, Havering is one of only three London boroughs that do not (see: https://data.climateemergency.uk/councils/ ). It was claimed there are 121 measurable outcomes in the plan – I had counted approximately one.  

Speeches were made saying the call-in process was being undermined, and speeches were made saying how weak a plan it was.  But in the end the vote to accept the plan was passed.  At one point the Mayor, to some laughter, asked ‘Has democracy been served?’ I remain bewildered, and angry that the plan is being pushed through without proper scrutiny. 

The Havering Climate Action Plan is, as the leader of the opposition said, a vague wish-list, and it badly needs input from members of the public who know something about climate change. For this reason, we are setting up a Havering Climate Coalition which will consist of groups and individuals in the borough who would like to campaign with the aim of strengthening the Action Plan. 

If you would like to help please contact either: Ian_michael_pirie@btinternet.com or: jeff.stafford@haveringcyclists.org

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