Town hall budget 'shows lack of ambition' to tackle climate emergency, Green councillor claims
PUBLISHED: 16:47 10 January 2020 | UPDATED: 17:11 10 January 2020
Islington's only Green councillor claims the town hall's budget proposals for the year show a "lack of ambition when it comes to tackling the climate emergency".
Cllr Caroline Russell (Green, Highbury East) is taking the Labour-led council to task over its alleged failure to make meaningful investments towards achieving its own ambitious carbon neutral target by 2030.
Islington Council declared a climate emergency in June.
In the proposed budget, it has committed some £15million towards combating climate change and air pollution, which includes £5m for "greening" its vehicles, £7,5m towards electric car charge points and cycling infrastructure and £2m for an extra 17 "school streets" and lorry bans.
But Cllr Russell said: "I'm really disappointed by the lack of ambition when it comes to the climate emergency. This is a council that is giving Teslas free parking, while hiking up prices for cycle parking to above £105 a year.
"It should never be cheaper to park a car than a bike especially in a borough that has declared a climate emergency."
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Commenting on the rest of the budget, she added: "It's worrying to see the impact of Universal Credit on the council's budget. This broken benefit has left residents penniless, while the council prepares to write off up to half-a-million pounds of council tax and rent.
"I've long advocated exempting the poorest residents from paying council tax which is leaving people with arrears growing year-on-year."
Islington's finance chief Cllr Andy Hull said: "The climate emergency is already a central consideration in our policy-making decisions, and will continue to be. We cannot tackle the climate emergency alone - it requires political will from central government and new laws, as well as the co-operation of residents and businesses.
"But we can play our part and will keep making a difference where we can."
He added: "We have campaigned heavily against Universal Credit and been proactively supporting those affected to mitigate its worst excesses - offering help even before our residents are switched over from other benefits.
"Our council tax support scheme currently helps more than 25,000 residents, and we are proud to continue providing the £100 discount for older residents, keep care leavers exempt from council tax until the age of 25 - and foster carers exempt completely.
"Our resident support scheme, which offers a lifeline to residents in extreme hardship, is the most generous of any scheme in the country, per person."
The budget proposals will go to the council's executive on Thursday before being debated by full council next month.