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Frustration expressed as West Norfolk Council fail to decide on climate change working group during meeting

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Discussions over setting up a West Norfolk Council working group to help tackle the climate crisis have been slammed as "an absolute shambles" and "not fit for purpose".

The council's Environment and Community Panel met yesterday in which Independent councillor Alex Kemp's proposal to set up an informal working group for climate change was discussed.

Chairman of the panel Colin Sampson said he had too many names for the group which he felt should comprise of a maximum of six councillors. Labour members called for "more fairness" and political proportionality after three Conservatives and two Independents had been initially identified for the group.

Councillor Colin Sampson, chairman of the Environment and Community Panel
Councillor Colin Sampson, chairman of the Environment and Community Panel

Labour councillor Sandra Collop put forward fellow Party member Jo Rust for the working group, while Conservative Vivienne Spikings also threw her name into the ring, while multiple councillors argued the original five names should be accepted to speed up the process.

Following a lengthy discussion, Independent councillor Sandra Squire said: "I am sorry can we just get on with this. There are seven people watching on YouTube and we can't even agree who will be on a group.

"If my name is on the list can you remove if it makes it any better? We are starting to look like idiots that do not know what we are doing. Lets just deal with this, get on with it and move on to more interesting things."

Mr Sampson stated the five names put forward for the group were councillors Anthony Bubb, Geoff Hipperson, Julian Kirk, Alan Holmes and Sandra Squire. The meeting was also told new cabinet member for climate change and commercial services Paul Kunes would be part of the meetings and discussions, which was questioned by councillor Jim Moriarty.

Mrs Squire subsequently asked for her name to be replaced by Green Party councillor Michael de Whalley, who himself then requested for the group to be extended to six so that Ms Kemp could be included as the original proposer.

The panel eventually agreed all the names put forward will be circulated in an email for panel members to vote on.

Ms Kemp said: "I do not think it's being decided in the best interests of West Norfolk. Everyone with a serious interest in climate change, which is everybody who put their names forward, should be involved with this.

"I think I am minded to withdraw my name and set up an alternative working group or put my ideas straight to the people of West Norfolk and the press. I think this is an absolute shambles how this is being dealt with. It's political posturing and wasting time. I am out."

Mr Sampson agreed for her name to be removed from the list for the vote.

After the meeting, a spokesman for the Extinction Rebellion [XR] campaign group said: "This demonstrates how our current political system, both locally and nationally, is not fit for purpose in tackling the climate and ecological crisis.

"XR calls for a Citizens’ Assembly at the national level which will break the political deadlock and put the power back in the hands of the people to come up with the actions necessary to tackle the climate and ecological crisis​."

The group also questioned why Mr Kunes' new cabinet role is responsible for both climate change and commercial services while environmental services are now handled by a separate cabinet member, Stuart Dark, also responsible for public protection.

The statement added: "The climate and environmental crises are intrinsically linked, and should be addressed with joined up thinking. There has been no cabinet report for the environment provided to the full council for eight months, since February, despite leader of the council Cllr Long claiming having given himself responsibility for it would add 'gravitas'.

"So hopefully Cllr Kunes and Cllr Dark’s split focus in their respective roles won’t distract them from addressing the defining crisis of our time​, and we hope to see significant progress on both climate change and the environment in the next full council meeting."

The campaign group has stated it will be seeking a meeting with Mr Dark and Mr Kunes to discuss the issue.

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