Claims of 'farce' and 'shame' as West Norfolk Council delays climate emergency decision
Climate change activists were left disappointed and angry last night after calls for West Norfolk Council to declare a climate emergency were deferred.
Amid scenes of some confusion at Lynn town hall, a motion urging the authority to act was blocked by the passing of a counter-proposal to refer the matter to the council’s cabinet instead.
Leader Brian Long said the issue would then return to full council after that.
But some members were left unhappy after two councillors appeared to be allowed to change their votes during the initial count.
Although the referral motion was declared to have been passed by 27 votes to 24, opponents claimed two other councillors had also initially voted against, only to later indicate they wished to support it or abstain respectively.
Independent group leader Jim Moriarty said he believed the referral motion had been voted down and would be pursuing the matter further.
Following legal advice, mayor Geoff Hipperson then called for a re-vote to take place.
However, independent Simon Nash suggested that would set a precedent.
And Labour’s Jo Rust insisted the original votes, whether mistaken or otherwise, should stand, adding: “It’s a cynical attempt to ensure this council doesn’t fully debate the climate change emergency.”
However, Mr Long claimed she was “presupposing” what would happen at cabinet.
The second count saw the motion pass by just a single vote, 26 to 25, prompting shouts of “Farce” and “undemocratic” from the public gallery.
One even compared it to the Brexit saga, saying: "We're not allowed a second referendum."
Earlier, environment portfolio holder Ian Devereux accused Extinction Rebellion activists, a number of whom attended the meeting having held a demonstration outside the town hall, of arrogance and having an “anti-establishment” view.
He said: “We don’t need telling climate change is happening. We see it every day. It is sad that Extinction Rebellion has no viable solutions.
“We will not dance to the tune of unelected anarchistic objectors.”
Although he was applauded by his Conservative colleagues, there were also cries of “Shame on you” from the public gallery following his remarks.
And Michael de Whalley, who proposed the emergency motion, later apologised on behalf of the council for what he described as the “disrespectful” comments.
He insisted that the borough had a moral duty to act, even if its overall contribution was small.
He said that rejecting the motion “would be a cowardly act on despair that would condemn future generations and the existence of large parts of this borough.”
And he asked: “Who here would wish to be remembered as a member of an authority that failed to heed the warnings?”
More by this authorAllister Webb