Tuesday, 3 August 2010

Haringey Council cuts luxuries – including being green!

Last night I attended a meeting at Haringey Council between the officers who are coordinating the Green door knocking scheme and members of the Sustainable Haringey Network.

The council have been given some Government money through the ‘Future Jobs fund’ to do some ‘environmental door-knocking’, talking to people about green issues such as sustainable transport, energy reduction, water conservation, sustainable food and of course recycling.

It’s a good idea in principle – taking the message to the doorsteps, giving people practical tips on how to reduce their carbon footprint.

There’s one big problem, though. The Future Jobs fund has been scrapped, and Haringey’s scheme, which started just last week, will be come to an abrupt end in February. That is if it isn’t extended by the use of volunteers. “The Big Society”, I quipped, and we all grimly chortled.

We raised the issue of Free Mass Insulation – that if it can happen in Kirklees, it can happen here. Creating local jobs, lifting the borough’s poorest out of fuel poverty, drastically lowering the borough’s CO2 emissions. “I can’t think of anything more worthwhile to spend any remaining money on – it’s win, win, win,” I told the officers.

Like most local authorities, Haringey have always come up with excuses rather than take what are seen as radical steps – the Free Mass Insulation scheme being a case in point. They’re big on proclamations “We’re going to reduce emissions by 40%!” – but less good on the detail of how that’s actually going to actually happen.

Now, though, they have the seemingly cast iron excuse to do very little – “there’s no money.” Sorry, I don’t buy it – pun intended. They can afford to publish a glossy magazine and send it to every household in the borough. They can afford to spend a fortune on consultants. They clearly have more money than they know what to do with – why else would they heat council offices to tropical temperatures and leave all the lights on at night?!

It’s time Haringey Council realised that tackling climate change isn’t just some trendy thing – a box that they can be seen to tick without taking real action. I do not blame the council officers – speaking to them individually, I sense that many of them would love to be more radical. Instead I blame the lack of political will. Oh, for some Green councillors, punching well above their weight, and not taking no for an answer!

Instead, for now at least, we’ll have to shout from the sidelines. My megaphone is at the ready.

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