I had a wonderful time last night on Marmalade Lane celebrating the fantastic produce from Co Farm and the work of Cambridge Sustainable Food, with a vegan feast made by Sam Dyer and Alex Collis with help from a number of volunteers
[Image shows the shadow of Katie and her phone, as she takes a picture of dry grass on the hottest day recorded so far in the UK, in Cambridge in July 25 2019. ]
On Monday that Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) published its Sixth Assessment Report, looking at the the impacts of global warming of 1.5 °C above pre-industrial levels, and it made chilling reading, as this report from the BBC makes clear
I was invited onto BBC Radio Cambridgeshire to talk about the report with Chris Mann
I’m angry because we knew this was coming and we know what is needed – we have to live resilient lives and act in emergencies, we have to adapt our built environment, and we have to make hard choices in order to make sure that our planet remains one we can live on.
The last Labour government put in place a Code for Sustainable Homes, which called for zero carbon homes and the recognition that water neutrality was necessary in water stressed areas – but these forward thinking policies were abandoned by the Tory-LibDem coalition between 2011 and 2016 and we are still waiting for replacement regulations to reflect the dire situation we are facing.
In the face of this global crisis, what we can do as a local authority can seem insignificant, but it does make a difference, and it offers an example for others.
We are working hard to do what we can to deal with the climate emergency, and our priorities for the next Local Plan include Climate Change and Biodiversity as well as Wellbeing and Tackling Equality. Our aspirations for the Plan go well beyond all current regulations, and we will do whatever we can to assure new communities are sustainable, ensuring that we are “meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs” (this is taken from the National Planning Policy Framework NPPF 2021, paragraph 7).
The City Council has put in double glazing and sealed external doors in all council homes, and have started on a programme of external insulation, loft insulation and solar PV as part of a retrofitting programme. We are working with local organisations like Cambridge Sustainable Food, Cambridge Carbon Footprint, Transition Cambridge and other to transform the way we think about food, waste, recycling and reusing materials, and much more. And we are working to make sure that Cambridge is a net zero council by 2030, and we will work to help our residents, local organisations and businesses to do the same. Some of the other things we are doing are:
A 6 month trial of giving free advice to residents on options to reduce energy use in homes latter this year.
Actively encouraging new opportunities for sharing of tools and re-using materials, including starting a library of things in the central library.
Listening to residents wanting to start community gardens and more food growing.
Working towards having the best possible local plan for sustainable development and communities.
Looking at more opportunities for food growing including more meanwhile growing areas and talking to local farmers.
Preparing a transport and movement strategy for the whole city and for all living in and around our city. Including tackling pollution, congestion, and provide more opportunities for walking, cycling, and public transport.
Starting a trial of electric community cars
None of these will solve global heating, none of them is enough – but they show that we are serious about what we can do here in Cambridge, offer ideas for other people to adopt, and demonstrate that we are willing to change the way we live.
We believe that we can make a difference – but at the same time we will be campaigning for governments and the large corporations that are responsible for most of the world’s carbon emissions to change the way they work too.
The Grenfell Tower disaster in 2017 alerted us to unsafe cladding, but there are many other concerns about the quality of the buildings we live and work in. As a councillor, I want to know more about the situation, and about what we might be able to do about it.
So on Friday July 22 I’m bringing together a group of experts with a panel of councillors to find out more, and discuss what might be done
There has been some criticism of Labour councillors for the way we voted on a motion at the Council meeting on Thursday 27 May. A motion of support for the Climate and Ecology Bill, which had been laid before Parliament by Green Party MP Caroline Lucas and a group of other MPs in September 2020 came to the Council. Labour proposed an amendment which welcomed the Bill, but laid the emphasis on attempting to deliver change through the Environment Bill which is currently being debated. This amendment was passed, and the amended motion was then passed by the council
What that means is that the City Council supports the ambitions of the CEE Bill, but believes those ambitions need to be achieved in a different way, because not even the CEE Bill’s most ardent supporters believe it will become law when we have an anti-environment Tory government with an eighty-seat majority led by a man who has betrayed every promise on the green agenda he has ever made.
The Trumpington Food Hub opened in the pavilion on Tuesday May 5 last year, supported by the City Council, the Trumpington Residents’ Association and Cambridge Sustainable Food, and this afternoon a group of the volunteers who have kept it going every week since will meet on the rec to reflect on what we’ve achieved and how we have worked to look after each other during the last sixteen months of the Covid-19 pandemic.
The way the community worked to support those in need, with mutual aid groups coordinated via WhatsApp, the trumpington.info website, and the Trumpington Volunteer Service all emerging to add to the work done by existing groups of all types and sizes, has been a real testament to our ability to care for and look after one another. Over the year we’ve seen prescriptions collected, pets walked, food delivered and all sorts of other support, especially for those who needed to shield during the most difficult periods as this awful disease spread.
Things are a bit easier now, with many of us fully-vaccinated and elements of day-to-day living restored, although we are clearly not through the pandemic and still need to be careful and responsible.
Being a councillor is an important job, and each of us has to decide how much time we spend each day or week in our role, especially those who have caring responsibilities, full time jobs, or other voluntary commitments. I’m fortunate to be able to devote a lot of my time to it, and I really admire my colleagues who manage to fit in their work as a councillor with other obligations.
Now that things have settled down after the May elections, I thought it might be useful to share a typical day.
I usually start the day catching up with emails and checking out what’s being said on social media. I know they say you shouldn’t read what they say about you on Twitter and Facebook, but I’m afraid I can’t resist. Today I spent a productive couple of hours dealing with email, answering the pressing stuff and flagging the things that could wait, and found time to like and retweet some comments that resonated with me.
I helped out a couple of fellow councillors deal with a biodiversity issue and a road closure issue – because we work as a team. I’m always calling or WhatsApping (is that a word? I think it is now..) others to discuss issues outside my area of expertise where I need guidance, and I’m happy to do the same.
A lot of time goes into coordination. It’s a lot easier now that we can meet virtually – at least for most things (let’s not forget that the Conservative government refused to extend the provisions to let us hold council meetings online, forcing us to sit at suitably distanced school desks in the Corn Exchange for last week’s full council meeting).
At the Local Election on May 6 Petersfield ward elected three Labour councillors – me, Mike Davey, and Richard Roberston – and Cambridge City Council remains under Labour control with 27 of the 42 seats.
Thank you to everyone who voted Labour. We will be working hard to deliver on the promises we made to all of the people of Cambridge
In 2019 I convened a Water Crisis Forum which was attended by representatives of many local organisations, as well as Anglian Water. That forum, and the hard work of many organisations that care about water like the Wild Trout Trust, FECRA, the Wildlife Trust, Cambridge Eco Schools, and Cam Valley Forum, managed to put concern over the local water supply on the news agenda, and made people more aware of the threat to our precious chalk streams from over abstraction of water from the chalk aquifers.
I’ve continued to talk and campaign about this issue, and have followed up on the report we issued last February.
In this video (which you can watch by clicking the link) I talk about biodiversity, and the chalk streams. Labour is committed to doing more to help, so please vote for your Labour candidate on Thursday May 6.
The local elections are on May 6, and the Labour teams are still out around Cambridge talking to residents, delivering our leaflets, and working for your vote. I was delivering in Glenalmond this weekend, and I’ll be out in other parts of Petersfield today.