Cost of climate change officer post at council defended
The benefits of spending £150,000 on a dedicated climate change officer at Chichester District Council have been defended this week.
Simon Oakley (Con, North Mundham and Tangmere) wanted reassurances that they would get ‘appropriate value for money’ and asked if the funds would not be better spent on direct measures to tackle climate change.
The new post will cost £120,000 with a £30,000 operational budget over two years and will be funded from general reserves. Its creation was approved by councillors on Tuesday (January 28).
Specific areas where Cllr Oakley suggested the money could be spent instead included environment protection schemes, food waste collections and improving recycling rates.
He asked: “Are these better areas to spend this money on rather than an officer post?”
While Cllr Oakley voiced some reservations, the mood in the council chamber appeared to be wholly in favour of the new role, especially after the council declared a climate emergency last summer.
Officers explained how after an initial climate emergency action plan had been produced it became clear the existing team would not be able to drive this forward without other work areas being lost.
For example the local plan review has been particularly time consuming for officers.
Eileen Lintill, leader of the council, said: “We need this person to be dedicated to the task.”
Donna Johnson (Local Alliance, Sidlesham and Selsey North) added: “I think it’s absolutely vital we have someone with the expertise to advise us to how we can better target our resources.”
Kate O’Kelly (LDem, Harting) said they should be avoiding duplication given neighbouring authorities were carrying out similar work and felt in an ‘ideal world we might have been a unitary authority’.
She added: “At the moment we should be cooperating as much as possible on as many issues as possible.”
Janet Duncton (Con, Loxwood) felt the person with right expertise would ‘guide the council in the right direction’, while Alan Sutton (Con, Fittleworth) added: “I think we need to get on and do things rather than just saying things and the appointment of an officer will help us achieve that.”
Jonathan Brown (LDem, Southbourne) said that one of the main challenges for the new officer would be to seek new sources of funding to make positive changes in the area and since the council was only a minor contributor of carbon emissions its role should be to help deliver dramatic change across the whole of the local economy.
Francis Hobbs (Con, Easebourne) felt the person applying for the position had to be someone who made a strong case for how they would improve what the council can do ‘in the bigger picture’.