Cllrs Lesley Whybrow (Green) and Tim Prater (Lib Dem) have accepted offers to join Cllr David Monk’s Cabinet. This elevation to a Cabinet position will bring with it a special responsibility allowance of £10,866, plus their £5,306 basic allowance.
Although not announced yet, Cllr Connor McConville leader of the Labour Opposition group will take housing once the decision is ratified by Labour Central NEC.
A councillor may, by notice in writing, given to the Head of Finance, elect to forego any part of his/her entitlement, to an allowance, under the allowances scheme. It is not known if Cllrs Prater or Whybrow have elected to forego Monk’s shilling.
Cllr Lesley Whybrow has been made Cabinet Member for the Environment.
Cllr Tim Prater has been made Cabinet Member for Revenues, Benefits, Anti-Fraud and Corruption.
Cllr Lesley Whybrow is the leader of the Green group on Folkestone & Hythe District Council. Six Green Cllrs were elected in May 2019.
Their first piece of business was a motion to declare a Climate & Ecological Emergency, which was passed in late July. Part of the debate hung around costs but, since late July the public has not been informed of what these costs will be for.
Cllr Whybrow in the July debate made some very sensible suggestions on how our Council can improve upon reducing its carbon emissions; and lead the way for others to follow.
Now as Member of Cabinet for the Environment, she is, in part responsible for reducing the emissions across the Council’s estate and operations.
The Council must produce an air quality report for the district each year, in fulfilment of Part IV of the Environment Act 1995. It must also send data on its emissions across its estate and operations to central government, each year. This has been the case since 2010/11. It is set out in the single data list.
It is clear then our Council produces this data, yet elect not to publish it. This means we cannot see if our Council is reducing or increasing its emissions across its estate and operations in the district. Now Cllr Whybrow in her pre-election video for the Greens said that transparency matters.
The Environmental Information Regulations 2004 and EU Directive 2003/4 make it clear the Council cannot refuse any person’s information on emissions. This is made clear at section 12(9) of the 2004 Regs and the Information Commissioner’s guidance.
Also the EU Directive 2003/04 makes it clear that:
It is also necessary that public authorities make available and disseminate environmental information to the general public to the widest extent possible, in particular by using information and communication technologies. The future development of these technologies should be taken into account in the reporting on, and reviewing of, this Directive
As emissions information cannot be refused; and environmental information must be disseminated to the public to the widest extent possible; our Council like others must provide this data to central government, will Cllr Whybrow ensure that this data is published? It is necessary to publish this data, as then those concerned about our environment can participate in any dialogue locally. Publishing this data would NOT reveal commercially sensitive data. Publishing it would though demonstrate our Council is playing its part, in reducing emissions and disseminating environmental information to the general public to the widest extent possible.
There is a legitimate public interest in the subject the information relates to. Climate Change and Ecological change is now a local, national and international issue, as is demonstrated by the picture below.
There is also an argument for presenting a full picture and allowing people to reach their own view. Publishing the data would remove any suspicion of manipulating the facts, or ‘spin’ by the Council; and prove beyond all reasonable doubt, they’re contributing to lowering emissions.
Ashford Borough Council openly publishes its emissions data across its estate and operations each year. The same is true of Gravesham Borough Council, Dover and Swale Councils.
As this information cannot be refused, must be produced and disseminated, will Cllr Lesley Whybrow Cabinet Member for the Environment make her first act – the publication of the emissions data our Council emits across its estate and operations?
Just this week, The Government re-introduced its Environment Bill to Parliament, claiming that measures contained in the legislation would “ensure that local authorities have a clear framework for tackling air pollution and simple to use powers to address pollution in their areas”. Cllr Whybrow has the opportunity to be ahead of the curve, the opportunity is there to publish the data about emissions across the Council estate and operations, but will she grasp this opportunity?
Finally, as children play in the 48 play areas (page 21) owned by the Council or its charity, half of which might be disposed of, mums, dads, and their kids have a right to know that the emissions produced by our council, are not harming them.
Let’s hope Cllr Whybrow’s actions speak louder than her words.
The Shepwayvox Team
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