CAG recently completed a small commission for West Sussex County Council, looking at opportunities for the council to take further action on sustainability in areas such as transport, waste and biodiversity. The council has a strong track record in sustainability, particularly in relation to energy, but wanted to increase its ambition in this area to take advantage of the transformational change that the council is currently going through.
The work involved capturing information on 29 initiatives, grouped under themes, which were identified by West Sussex County Council as being priorities for investigation. Themes were linked to those in the Government’s 25-year Environment Plan.
Councils have faced drastic budget cuts in recent years – according to the LGA, councils will have lost 50% of their government funding between 2010 and 2020. So the project team were encouraged to find so many examples of pioneering activities being led by councils, despite the dramatically reduced resources that are available for these types of initiative. The vast majority of initiatives had a strong business case which was key to their getting the support of elected members, for example through delivering cost savings or levering in funding that would otherwise not be available to the local area.
Some of the highlights included:
- Solihull Council’s work to support carbon reduction in schools, in partnership with the Ashden’s LESSCO2 programme, which over 20 schools have participated in. This programme raises awareness and explains how modest improvements to the school buildings will address those issues identified in the free energy surveys. The council’s sustainability officer has built relationships with a wide range of organisations that will offer support and resources to schools for free.
- Oxford City Council’s ambitions to achieve a 40% reduction in Oxford’s overall emissions, with the creation of Low Carbon Oxford which, together with Low Carbon Hub, has successfully secured substantial amounts of external funding for green projects in the city.
- Warwickshire County Council’s pioneering approach to ‘biodiversity offsetting’ which involves conservation activities delivering biodiversity benefits in compensation for biodiversity loss. This has the potential to deliver effective, widespread biodiversity gain for the natural environment – in a way which is easy to use for developers.
- Hampshire County Council’s ‘Operation Resilience’ programme to increase the resilience of the county’s highways to the impact of climate changes. Investing in more expensive, resilient materials when resurfacing roads is delivering long term savings through reduced need for maintenance.
To find out more, please contact CAG Partner Emma Jones – email@example.com.