Council chairman criticised over climate change debate ruling

Council chairman Clive World with vice chair Cllr Lorraine Hodgson.

The chairman of Richmondshire District councillor has dismissed claims that he has committed a “naked abuse of power” by preventing debate on proposals to tackle climate change.

Long-serving councillor Clive World said he had ensured calls to remove fossil fuel as an option for council vehicles by 2030 and action on reducing the use of plastics by the council were given thorough consideration, as opposition members branded the council’s environmental record as “a disgrace”.

The row erupted following a full meeting of the council where two notices of motion had been tabled by the leader of the council’s two-member Green Party and Independent group, Councillor Leslie Rowe.

As the debate was due to begin, Cllr World, who was chairing the meeting, cited “rule 11.4 of the constitution”, saying with the agreement of members, both issues would be examined by the authority’s climate change committee and reported to the council’s leaders. Cllr World’s proposal was agreed before he closed the meeting immediately after.

Speaking after the meeting, Cllr Rowe said Cllr World had repeatedly stifled debate during the meeting, moving his proposals to the end of the agenda as part of an “orchestrated plan by the ruling Richmondshire Together group of Liberal Democrats and Independents”.

He said: “It was a naked abuse of power by the chairman of the council, who, in a flagrant disregard for the conventions, proposed a motion from the chair to stop two motions being discussed by the full council.

“By kicking these subjects into the long grass as they did, it shows that the Richmondshire Together group of Liberal Democrats and their Independent cronies are only paying lip service to action on climate change.”

He said it was “a disgrace” that almost two years since the council agreed to target net zero emissions by 2030, the authority was yet to take one direct action to reduce carbon emissions.

Cllr World said he had acted entirely properly, and had even checked with the council’s monitoring officer during the meeting. He said no councillor or officer had raised concerns.

He added he believed Cllr Rowe’s proposals would be considered favourably, but the council’s climate change committee was the correct place for the issues to be initially examined.

He said: “Cllr Rowe had ample opportunity to comment if he wished, but one again he has made a mistake. I believe this is a stunt.”

The council’s leader, Councillor Angie Dale, said Richmondshire Together’s climate change efforts had suffered early setbacks due to the 2019 Yorkshire Dales floods and a lack of officers, but since then the authority had overcome many hurdles, investing £500,000 into cutting emissions and boosting green actions across the district.

She added the decision to consider Cllr Rowe’s proposals at a later date had the full support of council.

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