In the next few months such a call may well be made by Milton Keynes Council. Here is the back-story.
First, the local context. MK has a hung Council with good green credentials – it was very early to declare a Climate Emergency, for example. MK also has a lively chapter of Citizens UK, which works through community organizing (building local alliances of civil society, faith institutions, and grass-roots groups). Our local chapter, Citizens:mk, working as part of a emerging Thames Valley Citizens, staged a pre-election Assembly, with the principal PCC candidates and the Council Leader candidates all invited and turning up. One of the Citizens:mk campaigns was for Action on Climate and the Environment (ACE) – other campaigns concerned Digital Exclusion, Police & Young people, Timely Burials and Action on Misogyny. So this was quite a complex programme with limited time to present supporting testimony as well as make the asks themselves, and to hear responses from the various candidates.
The ACE campaign had three ‘asks’ prefaced by testimony from the Rt Rev Olivia, Bishop of Reading and from two remarkable primary School children. One ask, framed by COP 26 and pursuit of its 2030 carbon neutrality target, was
Within three months of taking office as Council Leader, will you commit to seeking all-party support for a Council resolution that commends a national policy based on Carbon Fee & Dividend; and meeting with us to discuss appropriate wording for this?
Through pre-meetings, the Council Leader hopefuls were aware that something on these lines would be presented. So how did they respond? The short answer is positively. All three were unequivocal about meeting, with this as the agenda item. One gave a clear-cut ‘yes’ to bringing such a resolution forward. Another was hopeful of agreeing to bring forward the resolution, but wanted to check it out further so as to be sure the poorest would not be adversely affected The third, drafted in at very short notice that afternoon (the Council Leader’s father had died) felt uneasy about committing on an area for which she was not the Cabinet Member.
The tenor of their comments seemed as significant as these specific responses: all three, in different ways, acknowledged that this was a policy idea they had not come across, and said they found it attractive and credible. One gave an impromptu pitch for it, another expressed gratitude for having been introduced to it. All this in front of a zoom audience of 200+.
What happens next? All we can be sure of is that we will have that meeting. I believe we are ‘odds on’ to get a resolution as well. However, without the election pressure, and in the face of so many competing calls on their attention, not to mention party loyalties and ambitions, some backsliding on the part of the next Council Leader would be no surprise, even understandable. Which is why the ACE campaign is working on the follow through: mobilising further support and preparing a range of options for how the resolution could be framed and to whom it would be directed (these matters were deliberately left open).
What might this mean for you as a CF&D activist where the situation is very different? Perhaps there are other existing groupings and networks you can work through. Might there be support for an all-party resolution in your Council? Ask to have coffee with someone who has some sort of standing, to seek their advice…
At the risk of sounding corny, nothing is as powerful as an idea whose time has come.