NESC 5th February: exceptional meetings are stop-gaps, we need a 7th scrutiny committee long-term

We knew this was going to be an unusual Neighbourhoods and Environment Scrutiny Committee. The agenda had caused a double take; the review of the Zero Carbon Framework 2020-2038 suddenly replaced by discussion of a draft five year plan.

But five more surprises lay in store on the day itself.

  1. The public gallery was packed – the highest turnout that I have seen for this committee. Extra chairs arrived. Executive members were obliged to mingle with the public, back in rows 2 and 3. To all those who gave up their time to attend: thank you. The tense atmosphere must be in part due to your presence. It may not have felt like you contributed (and our advice remains ‘bring a book’) but such visible pressure and citizen scrutiny is essential if we are to stand any chance of real action.
  2. An exceptional meeting declared: next a seventh scrutiny committee? NESC members were not happy with the documents presented, nor the process – and certainly not with the answers of the Executive Member. After an hour of circular arguments about which reports would be going to the Executive, Cllr John Flanagan called for an emergency meeting with the Executive Member. This, he hoped, would force clarity on the process and enable the committee to review the recommendations.  An exceptional measure like this is fine as a one off; but the longer-term need is for a seventh scrutiny committee, dedicated to climate and the environment. Only then will climate plans get the attention they deserve. Month in, month out. If you agree, sign here (from 10th Feb)
  3. Talking in tonnes recommended – The committee’s other two recommendations chimed with those set out in the CEM briefing paper produced ahead of the meeting. First, to use tonnes (rather than percentages) of CO2 consistently, and in all documents.
  4. Quarterly reporting recommended – The final recommendation called for quarterly reports on the City Council’s own emissions, with KPIs.
  5. Discussions of climate action plan barely touched on action –  OK, maybe not so great a surprise. But the agenda implied that the action plan – what is to be done – might be front and centre. Instead, as Cllrs Kilpatrick and Wright pointed out, an hour was frittered on confusion about sequencing and whether or not targets had been agreed. The discussion circled many times, but rarely ended up on what to do in an emergency.

If this whets your appetite, you can watch a webcast of the full meeting here (popcorn optional).

And if any of the many citizens present would like to supplement these headlines with points that struck them as important, please leave a comment below.

6 thoughts on “NESC 5th February: exceptional meetings are stop-gaps, we need a 7th scrutiny committee long-term”

  1. A very good description, I’d particularly agree with the comment above about lack of talk on action. I would add that I have attended a number of City Council Scrutiny Members over the years and cannot remember a time when such a committee has shown some real teeth and anger; that in itself is refreshing even though we have obviously got a long way to go. I also think the packed public ‘gallery’ had an influence; there was a similarly good attendance at the Climate Change subcommittee meeting a couple of weeks ago.

    1. Thanks,
      yes to all that. The trick is to have sustained public pressure, without the public feeling used, bored, frustrated. If we can get that right, and have growing numbers, growing attention, month in, month out, then we might get somewhere.
      We have some ideas on this, but VERY VERY keen to hear other people’s suggestions…

      Marc Hudson, on behalf of CEM

    2. It still seems there is a long way to go until there is full realisation that the Climate Emergency must take priority in all Council policies but I was impressed to see some passion and real scrutiny from Cllrs Wright, Igbon, Flanagan and Kilpatrick.

  2. Having been advised to expect to be bored by what went on I was surprised that the meeting seemed more like a revolt.

    I found the process a little hard to follow at times (and sitting at the back didn’t help) although my understanding was that the committee were unhappy at receiving the paperwork at the last moment and by not being able to scutinise the actual paperwork that was going to the forthcoming meeting of the Executive.

    Although not much action was discussed, more than one member emphasised that action was needed urgently and immediately. The Chair even referred to the situation as ‘life and death’ which I found extraordinary (in the context of a council meeting, that is).

    The influence of the work done by CEM and others seemed to be evident throughout the meeting so thank you to all you tireless campaigners.

    1. Thanks,
      yes, a bit more spicy than the usual scrutiny meeting.
      We’ve learnt a few lessons about the pre-meeting (don’t know if you were at that?) and next time will be better…
      Next time is when, you ask? Weds 4th March from 2 to 4pm. Put it in your diary now. Pre-meeting will kick off from 1pm (or maybe a bit earlier – watch this space. Venue [not the same one!] to be announced soon…

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