During the run up to local elections I always feel as if I am living in parallel worlds. This is especially so this year with the addition of a poll for the West Midlands Mayor. As always the politicians are pleading and scrabbling for our votes, typically highlighting their solutions for problems in health and social services, trade and employment, and education. Whilst these are obviously of vital importance to us all, of equal, or even greater, importance is the quality of our environment and the state of the natural word, yet they mainly remain silent on this.
Even so many skilled and dedicated people are working to protect and improve our environment, trying to ensure we have clean water, clean air to breathe, thriving wildlife, and attractive parks and open spaces. These things affect every individual every day of their lives, whereas the other issues affect us all at different times, but rarely all the time.
The disconnect between the two worlds is particularly striking in Birmingham. In 2013 the City adopted its ground-breaking Green Living Plan, intended at least partly to bridge this gap. The Plan was endorsed by the City Council and continues to be worked on. I know many people who are involved, partnering the City in making progress on such things as nature conservation, air pollution and flood control. Trying however to find out what is happening through official channels is not easy. Searching the City Council’s website takes you to a copy of the Plan, but there are no other links to tell you about progress.
When did the Leader of the Council last make a major policy announcement in relation to this initiative? As for the Mayoral candidates, most of them must be pressed, or persuaded to attend special events, before they say anything about the environment.
My question therefore is, is there any political commitment to environmental protection and improvement, or is everything being done at grass roots level? You could ask candidates whether they know about the Green Living Plan and if so what they will do to ensure its success if they are elected. Similar questions should be asked of mayoral candidates in the wider context of the West Midlands region. Action for the environment needs sustaining and resourcing, and for this political support and commitment is essential.
Since this was written a general election has been called: the same principles operate at the national level too.