Agenda item

To consider any questions by Members under paragraph 19.3 of Part 2 (The Council and District Council Members) of the Constitution, notice of which have been duly given.


Two questions had been received from two Members in accordance with paragraph 19.3 of Part 2 (The Council and District Council Members) of the Constitution.


Question 1: Cllr Purves


“What has the £60,000 per annum from the net zero budget since 2020/21 been spent on?”


Response: Leader of the Council


The fund created at full Council on 25 February 2020, was not to be spent on day to day expenditure. Its purpose was to get the Council to the starting line quickly, carry out a number of specific actions and projects and begin to make prudent provision against the capital costs that likely were ahead but the full extent of which was as yet unknown. 


The Net Zero Transition Fund would provide an insurance or buffer ready to be an early adopter of new, environmentally friendly technologies as they became available. He advised that the alternative would be either postponing the introduction of such measures or having large, last minute growth items in the budget setting process which would have to be met by cuts elsewhere.


The council had agreed a rolling set of actions to transition towards the commitment to become a net zero council by 2030.  The actions covered the commitment made for the council and its assets, and its 2030 ambition to help communities within the district reduce their carbon emissions and to improve the overall climate resilience of the district. Initially the main focus had been understanding and reducing carbon emissions from the council and its assets, and had started working on a number of different projects to meet our overall aims and ambition for the wider district. 


One notable project was, to help engage communities with the climate agenda, including ways to support climate resilience, was the Sevenoaks Wildlife Events which took place over the summer, and which were paid for from the Net Zero budget.  For a small expense, resources had been produced by the Council’s partners at the North West Kent Countryside Partnership which would be used in subsequent promotions and community engagement activities. 


Climate change was a wide ranging issue which overlapped with many other areas, including sustainable transport, air quality, planning policy, housing and infrastructure.  Officers had been working in partnership to deliver projects that had multiple benefits.  These included a movement strategy, a Local Cycling and Walking Infrastructure Plan, delivering the Air Quality Action Plan, participating in a Solar Project and EV chargepoints with Kent County Council, thereby making the most of available funds and budgets rather than replicating work. 


Supplementary question: Cllr Purves


Cllr Purves requested clarification on the £60,000 per annum which had been spent this year.


Response: Leader of the Council


The Leader referred to his earlier answer and advised that the fund was not just for expenditure on a day to day basis but rather ease out costs that would be coming in future years, such as replacement of the fleet.


In accordance with the Constitution, no further discussion was allowed.


Question 2: Cllr Clayton


“What opportunities has the Council identified for net zero investments which have a positive financial return?”


Response: Leader of the Council


Officers and Members had been working together to develop and deliver projects that have multiple benefits.  As part of this, they were considering how our net zero ambitions could also bring financial benefits beyond the obvious efficiency savings.  Such projects were being investigated and would first be tested for feasibility.


The Leader went on to advise that the Council delivered exceptional value for money, high quality services to the residents and businesses served and returns that went beyond the financial investments held.  At the heart of much of the work was the preservation and improvement of the environment, both natural and built. As an example, investment in Swanley saw a leisure centre built to BREEAM very good standard, incorporating state of the art air source heat pumps, as well as other energy efficient features such as water consumption monitoring, leak detection, flow control and responsible sourcing throughout the development phase. 


It was an investment in the community, for the long term.  From a financial perspective, that sustainable approach would yield savings over the life of the centre, as well as huge environmental improvements over its predecessor. Some of the steps on the council’s journey to net zero would cost more but pay for themselves, such as the LED lighting installed in council owned buildings and car parks. 


Some simple changes, like transitioning towards paperless, cost nothing more and deliver immediate benefits.  Others bring higher costs but were the right thing to do, whilst others were prohibitively expensive or impractical now but would make sense in the future.


The Leader advised that the commitment to Net Zero and sustainability would remain undiminished, this included investments, however they would not, be reduced to a purely financial equation.


Supplementary Question: Cllr Clayton


Cllr Clayton asked whether the Council would be following Sussex County Council with the type of investments they had been making.


Response: Leader of the Council


The Leader advised that the Council was providing electric charging points in all its council owned car parks, as KCC was responsible as the Highways authority for off-street parking, and were working with the Council to look at how to move these type of projects on.


In accordance with the Constitution, no further discussion was allowed.


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