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ACE Brent Deputation to Scrutiny

Updated: Mar 26

On Tuesday 27th February 2024 representatives of ACE Brent spoke at the Brent Council Resources and Public Realm Scrutiny Committee - putting forward the concerns of the coalition and responding to the councils 'Climate and Ecological Strategy Update (Winter 2024). See here for link (pages 107-158)

ACE Brent (Action on the Climate and Ecological Emergency Brent) has grown into a coalition of 14 environment and neighbourhood groups, and their contribution was welcomed by the Chair of the Committee.

Ian Saville (Brent Friends of the Earth and Brent Pure Energy) and Sheila Simpson (Brent Friends of the Earth and Brent XR) called for a new Scrutiny Committee dedicated to the Climate and Ecological Emergency - in acknowledgement of the Emergency as the "most pressing issue of our time" and one which disproportionately impacts the more vulnerable members of our community. They acknowledged the financial pressures the council is under, while underlining that the council's stated objective of Net Zero by 2030 required "a more coherent approach",  "a more ambitious set of policies", and "more energy and urgency". 

  • They called for more open and two-way communication with members of the public, saying that the Brent Environment Network had become no more than a bulletin board for the council. A refreshed Climate Strategy was needed with public involvement through a new Climate Assembly and themed discussion groups. These could draw on plenty of local expertise amongst the groups represented by ACE Brent.

  • They welcomed the introduction of statements about the climate impact of policy proposals, but were concerned that this should not become a "box-ticking" exercise and requested that policies going forward always have positive impacts. 

  • They acknowledged that the Greener Neighbourhoods and School Streets were good initiatives, but were concerned that the withdrawal of most of the Healthy Neighbourhoods spoke to a lack of commitment to real change.

  • The Climate Dashboard was welcomed as the beginnings of a monitoring and benchmarking process but one which does not yet measure the impact on emissions of different initiatives - this is needed in order to prioritise the most effective action. Ian and Sheila called for the adoption of the specific time-framed actions proposed by ACE Brent around transport, insulation and retrofitting, divestment etc

See Deputation statement here

The recording of the meeting can be seen here (from 1hour 24 minutes)

Discussion topics included :

  • Whether the council is doing enough (and all it actually can) to meet the Net Zero target. There was a call for more political will and ambition, especially to impact on  - it is not enough to cite funding constraints. Leader Mohammed Butt said that there was a commitment to the Climate Emergency being a strategic priority, and that there are regular conversations about strengthening this work. He wants Strategic CIL funds to be used for this.

  • Why neighbouring and comparable boroughs have achieved more, for example with relation to cycle lanes and retrofitting (transport and buildings being the biggest sources of emissions). Need more commitment to pursue the most impactful measures.  It was stated that a new post has been recruited to in the climate team which will be focused on bidding for funds.  

  • The need to reduce barriers to retrofitting; cost and planning restrictions.

  • The need to extend Controlled Parking Zones (income generating), and to increase charging e.g. for heavier vehicles. Funds use for free bus passes. This also addresses equality issues given large no of residents without cars. Need for public debate on this, and to revisit Low Traffic Neighbourhoods - in general a stronger challenge to the "right to drive" lobby.  Extreme delays in getting a CPZ designated were cited. 

  • The need for a dedicated climate Scrutiny Committee. It was acknowledged that this committee is very pushed for time but it was said that there is not funding for this.

  • The Climate Dashboard was welcomed but seen as not ambitious enough, lacking benchmarking

  • The value placed on community engagement and the need to harness expertise in planning going forward. The Faith Climate Forum was cited as a good way of engaging with the wider community

Points were also made about :

  • More information and support for businesses, role of Town centre managers

  • Divestment - it was stated the council has started divesting and will continue as more mechanisms for this become available 

  • Prioritisation of refurbishment over new build - see Mayor of London policy (and big delays in some ecofurb projects)

  • Follow up of meeting with Brent FoE about promoting more plant-based eating, including in schools

  • Need for a bins audit

  • Certain themes missing including food and renewable energy - it was stated that these come under bigger themes - consumption/ resources/ waste, homes/buildings/built environment

Recommendations at the end of the meeting included : 

  • Proposal for a new scrutiny committee - devolve to a community forum

  • Recognition that BEN not working - refresh needed / community representation to be explored again

  • Gaps in Dashboard to be resolved

  • Make use of planning consultation to better enable retro-fitting

  • Develop information hub for businesses 

  • Ensure Climate implications on council reports taken seriously - up-skilling across the council

  • Better use of CPZ's to deliver climate commitments. Ensure streamlined delivery and developer commitments followed up.

  • Consider charging for heavier vehicles

  • Prioritise gaining additional funding to retrofit council stock



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