Harrogate's Lib Dem leader and senior Tory councillor clash over climate change

Two councillors have clashed over Harrogate Borough Council's commitments to tackling climate change.

Tuesday, 16th June 2020, 6:35 pm
Updated Tuesday, 16th June 2020, 8:56 pm
"Fresh ideas and bold action" are needed to cut carbon emissions in Harrogate, says Lib Dem leader Coun Marsh.

Lib Dem leader Coun Pat Marsh singled out Conservative cabinet member for sustainable transport, Coun Phil Ireland, when she launched scathing criticism at the Tory-dominated council's "unwillingness to work collaboratively and transparently".

She said the council's cross-party climate change coalition - set up last year - should be scrapped and replaced with a citizens' assembly, as she also renewed her calls for the district to declare a climate emergency.

Coun Marsh said she had written to Coun Ireland about the plans and did not receive a response.

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Coun Phil Ireland, cabinet member for sustainable transport.

Coun Ireland has now responded in a statement.

He said: "I was very disappointed to read Coun Marsh’s comments about our work on climate change.

"We have set up the Harrogate District Climate Change Coalition (HDCCC) with representatives from environmental groups, businesses, public sector organisations and voluntary groups

"Coun Marsh supported us on setting up this group, now she wants to do away with it and set up a new group.

Lib Dem leader Coun Pat Marsh.

"So, she called on us to declare something that has already been declared, now she calls on us to replace the group she asked us to set up.

"I think that our time is better spent continuing our work on reducing carbon emissions, encouraging sustainable travel and improving air quality for the benefit of everyone in the district".

Last year more than half of all UK councils across declared climate emergencies. Harrogate Borough Council, however, did not.

Instead, councillors agreed to match the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's (IPCC) target of a 45 per cent reduction in emissions by 2030.

It is also the council's aim to have a net zero-carbon economy by 2038.

Coun Marsh said "fresh ideas and bold action" will be needed to hit those targets.

She said: "The best way we can do this is by establishing a citizens’ assembly on the climate emergency as we have seen in many other local authorities, bringing together a cross-section of the community to find solutions and decide the best course of action to tackle this existential crisis".

Coun Ireland insisted the council's coalition is "open and transparent" and added he would welcome the formation of a citizens' assembly - a move which is also being backed by campaign group Extinction Rebellion Harrogate.

He said: "We will happily work with a citizens assembly and would welcome a mandate from citizens for action.

"We will collaborate with anyone and any group that is working to reduce carbon emissions to achieve net zero".

Judith Rogerson, the Lib Dems' former parliamentary candidate for Harrogate and Knaresborough, added: "A challenge this big requires us to bring people together and unite behind a shared vision.

"After all, if we’re going to make the changes necessary, it will require us all to make changes to our everyday lives".

By Jacob Webster, Local Democracy Reporter