Examination of Witnesses

Part of Levelling-up and Regeneration Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 3:10 pm on 23rd June 2022.

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Carolyn McKenzie:

The first thing would be to actually have a mission in the Bill that relates to environmental outcomes, as the Bill does not have such a mission in there. Even though there has been some commitment to sustainable and non-competitive funding, if there is no mission then you cannot link that back. When you have funds such as the shared prosperity fund, which will take regard of the environment, if there is no mission you cannot just say, “Well, this is a priority.” So having a mission on the environment would definitely push this along.

There is a need within devolution to be clear about people’s roles. At the minute, everything that is done around climate change is done by local authorities, both at county and district level, because they have been driven to do so by the public through climate emergencies. It is not because we are being asked to do it. That drives action, absolutely, but it drives different types of action—inconsistent action—and the data is different so you cannot compare.

Also, when you get things like covid coming along, or Ukraine, or inflation, the risk of dropping down the agenda is really high, so that sustainable approach to funding is needed, rather than there being small pots of funding and grant-based funding, which can change and is short-run and competitive. That approach is not great for really putting down the foundations and encouraging local authorities to work with partners and to partner up. We are looking at working with the private sector, residents and other public sector bodies to really partner up their funding with our funding, to get more bang for our bucks and to achieve more through things like volunteering to plant trees, which involves health and social, and tackling fuel poverty, which keeps people out of hospital as well as reducing carbon emissions. As I keep saying, that integration is really key.

Again, when we look at things to spend money on, we really need to look at what is needed at the local level. There are lots of things that will be consistent that people need to spend money on, but there will be lots of differences and nuances at the local level that will make it better spent. I reiterate again that 41% of Surrey’s emissions—we are not unusual among other authorities—are down to the private car. With little or no funding for public transport, it is a really difficult target to hit to get people out of the car. You can get people to change to electric vehicles, but that has an equalities aspect to it: not everybody drives and not everybody can afford it. Public transport and good safe routes for walking and cycling are really crucial, as is the housing side, again.