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02. 06. 2020 15:06
WRITTEN BY: Mel Holley

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Warwick DC referendum over council tax rise to fund its £30m Climate Emergency Action Programme

In a bold move, Warwick District Council (WDC) councillors are proposing to add an average of £1 per week onto householders' council tax bills to raise £3m a year for a Climate Action Fund, for the next 10 years.

It will help the Council to be carbon-neutral by 2025 and the district to be carbon-neutral by 2030.

As a result, it is required to hold a referendum to seek approval from voters and has set 7 May as the date. 

It comes as public pressure increases across the country for politicians to take the big steps needed to tackle air quality and climate change.

Climate Change Emergency

Last summer WDC  Councillors put aside political differences and came together to unanimously declare a Climate Emergency. A far-reaching plan has since been developed to reduce the Council’s carbon emissions to zero and lead further climate change efforts across the district. 

In May 2019 a national climate emergency was declared by the UK Parliament.

So far 277 (68%) of the 408 District, County, Unitary and Metropolitan Councils have declared a Climate Emergency, since April 2019. Also eight Combined Authorities/City Regions have declared a Climate Emergency.

But WDC is the first to introduce a specific levy.

Legislation to allow councils to raise extra funds has been in place since 2012, but only one council has used them. Bedfordshire Police and Crime Commissioner, Olly Martins, proposed a 15.8% increase in council tax for 2015-16, but the measure was rejected by 69.5% of voters.

Warwick District Council is led by Conservative Andrew Day, working in coalition with the Whitnash Residents' Association (WRA). The Conservatives have 19 councillors, Liberal Democrats 9, Green Party 8, Labour 5 and the WRA 3.

Covering Warwick, Leamington Spa and Kenilworth, the population of 142,000 is rapidly growing with extensive housing developments, adding to road congestion.

 

All-party statement

Now,  in an all-party statement the councillors say: "Together, we believe that the time has now come to take practical action to deal with the Climate Emergency. 

"Warwick District Council's Officers and a cross-party group of Councillors have developed a plan 'The Climate Emergency Action Programme' that advocates strong local leadership and significant investment to change our future for the better. 

"This Plan will enable the Council to be carbon-neutral by 2025 and help the district to also be carbon-neutral by 2030, plus make necessary local preparations for climate disasters such as flooding.

"Investment today will help our communities ‘face the future’ with confidence.

"Councillors believe that the fairest way to raise the money locally is through our Council tax."

At a Council meeting on 26 February, it proses to adopt a motion asking residents for an increase of £1 per week (for a Band D property) at a Referendum to be held on 7 May (this is in addition to the £5 increase to cover existing services); this would put £3m per year into a ‘ring-fenced’ Climate Action Fund.

Those on a low income may qualify for a reduction under the Council’s Council Tax Reduction Scheme.

The councillors add: "The Climate Emergency Action Programme is a positive programme that over the next decade will bring social, environmental and economic benefits to all our residents and businesses."

They add that WDC is well placed to do this work, being strongly rooted in the local community with many of the practical skills and local contacts necessary to lead in implementing this ambitious plan, which will:

  • Create major benefits for local residents, such as reduced congestion and improved air quality; enhanced biodiversity; and more energy efficient homes and public buildings.
  • Partner, advise and encourage businesses and other organisations to take the necessary steps to meet the challenges of climate change.
  • Enable the Council to be carbon-neutral by 2025.

Key dates

  • 12 February: Executive - First decision on these proposals (documents here)
  • 26 February: Council - Final Council decision
  • 7 May: Referendum - Residents’ decision
  • Announcement of outcome

Find out more: WDC action plan here

Find out more: Referendum Q&A here

List of councils that have declared a Climate Emergency is here

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