A councillor who led moves for a district council to up its environmental efforts weeks before the area was hit with unprecedented flooding has voiced dismay at the pace of bringing forward improvements.
Councillor Leslie Rowe likened a study by Richmondshire District Council into its use of single use plastics to “responses to an email that no one has taken the trouble to fill in”, six months after a packed council gallery applauded members for backing measures to cut the use of plastics and declaring a climate change emergency.
Independent member Cllr Rowe, who represents Catterick and Brompton-on-Swale, highlighted that he had called on the council to examine its plastic use with a view to eliminating or reducing unnecessary use, and not just single-use plastic, but officers had only focused efforts on identifying the authority’s use of single use plastic.
While the study included numerous types of single use plastics used by the council, such as cutlery, bin bags, laminated sheets and cleaning products, Cllr Rowe said other items had been overlooked.
He described the report’s contents as “nonsense”.
He said: “For instance, there’s not one part of the council which uses a biro, there’s not a finance department that uses plastic sheeting for putting their files.
“Such a response is contemptible and shows contempt for the council and I feel it should be rejected. I hope the corporate board will send it back to be done again.”
He added while the study had stated there was no alternative to using plastic sacks for waste, it should have been apparent to officers that they could use paper bags instead.
Cllr Rowe said: “If a major retailer like Iceland can commit to not using plastic packaging by 2023 why can’t a small organisation like Richmondshire manage that?
“I would like the heads of environmental health, housing options, business and community services, human resources and finance to explain why they have refused to abide by the democratic decision of the council to to a plastics audit.”
Leading councillors said while they were keen to tackle environmental issues it had taken longer than had been envisaged to get to grips with the scale of the changes that would be needed.
Councillor Stuart Parsons said: “It’s a horrible state of affairs when we have declared an emergency and it’s taken us six months to even take the first steps to meet that emergency. But we have a long-term challenge and we need to do it properly.”
The council’s leader Councillor Angie Dale added officers had spent a lot of time considering single use plastic use by the authority and that the report had been undertaken to specifically to examine the use of single use plastics.
The authority’s former deputy leader Councillor Ian Threlfall said as a move to employ a dedicated climate change officer had yet to be ratified by the full authority, “criticism at this moment in time is a bit premature”.