Green groups have welcomed government proposals to give local councils more power to tackle climate change and go beyond national carbon-cutting targets.
Earlier this week communities secretary John Denham announced plans for what the Government claimed would be “the biggest single transfer of power to local government in a generation.”
More than £100 billion of public money is being spent on local services outside elected councillors’ control, according to the Government. It wants service providers, such as utility companies, which have a direct bearing on people’s quality of life, to come under the spotlight.
Under the proposals, the Environment Agency, police chiefs and even energy company bosses could be hauled in for town hall grillings in Commons-style select committee hearings with members of the public able to give evidence on the services they have experienced.
The Government believes local councils play a crucial part in making the shift to a low-carbon economy and said the proposals would also help deliver the Low Carbon Transition Plan and Low Carbon Industrial Strategy for green jobs launched last week.
It wants to open up the debate on local carbon budgets with a process of consultation and is looking at whether local authorities could go further than their existing responsibilities.
Mr Denham said: “I want to expand the role of elected councillors to lead action against climate change in their areas, through the use of carbon budgets, co-ordinating funding to focus on climate change and taking innovative actions like providing green mortgages.
“In the discussion paper we set out a range of potential powers, agreed with the DECC (Department of Energy and Climate Change), which could give local authorities an enhanced role in leading work to tackle climate change.”
The consultation takes in areas such as coordinating funding streams, offering innovative financing to support low-carbon activity or agreeing local carbon budgets in exchange for government support or freedoms and flexibilities
West Midlands Friends of the Earth campaigner Chris Crean welcomed the move. He said: “This is great news. The government is spot on to recognise that councils have a massive part to play in tackling climate change.
“Councils have a big say in how we heat and power our homes and how we get around and could be doing much more to cut carbon emissions.”