Being clear about how we will do things is just as important as what we will be doing. We have two core policies which shape everything we do.
Addressing the climate and ecological emergency
Climate change impacts on the current and future wellbeing of local residents, so we need to take urgent action. In 2019, we declared a climate emergency across Bath & North East Somerset, and this was complemented in July 2020 by our declaration of an ecological emergency. This means change for us all and we are committed to playing our part.
Our Keynsham Civic Centre had the largest solar panel array on a new public building in the country when it was built, we have introduced LED street lighting, our Energy at Home scheme retrofitted 300 homes and our Plastics Pledge involves local businesses and communities.
We have a long history of action on the natural environment, bio-diversity, and green infrastructure, and will be continuing that whilst looking for more opportunities to enhance to local bio-diversity and to increase tree cover.
Work undertaken on the area’s carbon footprint enabled the identification of of three priority areas for action for carbon reduction:
- Energy efficiency improvements to existing buildings and zero carbon for new build
- A major shift to mass transport, walking and cycling to reduce transport emissions
- A rapid and large-scale increase in local renewable energy generation
These have been built into our strategy and are reflected in our key commitments. Our work to address the climate and nature emergency delivers other important benefits, for example, insulating homes both improves public health and creates good local jobs
We will provide the leadership to help this happen. We will also press for the powers and resources needed from central government. ‘Business as usual’ is not an option, and we need to work together across the public, private and community sectors as well as with our residents to develop solutions together.
You can find out the latest information on our plans, and what you can do to help, on our climate emergency web pages.
The impact of the crisis brought into sharp relief the dependency of our area on an economic model based on mass tourism and the need to diversify into low carbon, locally based, green economic recovery models.
Tackling the climate and ecological emergency will come into even sharper focus as we work with partners to renew the local economy, and address the long-term challenges facing our area, such as tackling inequalities and reshaping our skills base.
Key commitments in the strategy relating to the climate emergency, such as investment in retrofitting homes to improve energy efficiency, renewable energy development and sustainable travel, have become even more relevant as they form key elements of investment packages being identified to boost the economy.
Giving people a bigger say
Local residents should have a powerful voice in how their services are designed, funded and run. There is more we can do to be transparent and collaborative in the way that we work too. We want to make sure we are involving local people, parish councils and others in our decision-making. We need to listen to all our communities, including our younger residents, about the issues that affect their future.
We know that some things are working well already. This includes our Parish Charter and our Area Forums, where public services and local communities meet and talk together. You can watch our meetings live on our YouTube channel or catch up with them later.
Our new Community Engagement Charter sets out how we will engage and consult with residents in the future, involving them in a clear and meaningful way in council priorities and decision making.
You can find out what we are consulting on, and respond to consultations, on our have your say web pages.
Lockdown, combined with the swift adoption of new technology, sped up the introduction of online and video engagement tools. Council meetings were livestreamed, and the council leader established regular webinars on key topics.
Our weekly e-newsletter goes to more than 50,000 email addresses, and a webinar organised by us on reopening our high streets safely, has been watched by more than 700 people. Webinars also focused on the key issues for young people from COVID-19 and lockdown, and on the green recovery. We also used webinars to explore the legacy of slavery in our area, as well as to engage with residents on our local response to the impact of COVID-19, including the impact on council finances. This emphasis on quick and easy online engagement will be continued and further developed.
It is also important to emphasise the associated support and help required for people who have limited or no access to digital services. We must consider fully the equalities implications of this shift to online working. For example, during the crisis, we also wrote to all households in the area and worked with key local groups, such as parish and town councils, and local radio stations.