North Yorkshire Greens accuse Tories of putting politics before climate

County Hall.

Green Party councillors have accused the Conservatives of putting party politics before tackling the climate crisis following the appointment of a climate champion for North Yorkshire last week.

At a full meeting of the council in Northallerton, Conservative councillor for Bilton and Nidd Gorge, Paul Haslam and Green Party councillor for Ouseburn, Arnold Warneken made pitches to councillors about why they felt they were best suited for the role which involves encouraging positive action over the climate.

This led independent councillor for Filey, Sam Cross, to put forward a motion that would see the job shared, adding “the more brains fighting climate change the better.”

Councillors took a vote on the job share but it was narrowly defeated after the Conservatives, which is far-and-away the largest party on the council, rejected the proposal and it lost by 43 votes to 42.

Cllr Haslam then defeated Cllr Warneken by 46 to 38 in a second vote to become climate champion.

Speaking this week, Cllr Warneken said he was disappointed that the Conservatives denied the job share. He said:

“Like many Greens I am used to working alongside others and establishing good working relationships even when we disagree occasionally. This was a real opportunity for the ruling group to show that they want to work with others in order to help make the new council stronger. They comprehensively failed that task.”

Before the job share vote, Conservative member for Thirsk, Gareth Dadd, sought clarification from the council’s senior legal officer Barry Khan on whether the arrangement would go against the council’s constitution.

However, Mr Khan confirmed that there was nothing in the constitution to prevent the two councillors from sharing the role and the allowance that comes with it.

Catterick councillor Cllr Kevin Foster, leader of the Green group on North Yorkshire Council, added: “We heard from the Conservatives on numerous occasions about working in collaboration, we in the green group have always been open to working with any parties and we still stand by that.

“The green group want a new politics and want to work in a way that will take all views in to consideration. Unfortunately the conservatives just want more of the same.

“The public made it clear in the last election they think politics is broken and we want to fix it. It really is sad that the conservative thirst for power is more important than a balanced view.”

Despite Mr Khan’s clarification on the council’s constitution last week, Conservative council leader, Carl Les, told the Local Democracy Reporting Service that he believes it does not allow for two climate champions or for a job share agreement.

He added: “It could be looked at in the future, but the opposition members were determined to push for a vote. Both candidates made speeches in favour of their suitability for the role, and I and my colleagues supported Cllr Haslam. That’s democracy in action.”