Concerns raised over funding goals for Havering Council climate change plan

Funding concerns have dominated the debate around Havering Council’s climate change action plan, though the leadership has reassured councillors it will be appropriately budgeted for.

The authority has “refreshed” its action plan for the next three years, with a view to reducing harmful emissions and reaching net-zero carbon emissions in the borough by 2040.

Labour councillor Keith Darvill told a cabinet meeting on Wednesday evening (April 10) that the plan would serve as the blueprint for a “greener, more sustainable Havering”.

It outlines an approach to reduce the carbon impact of homes and businesses, improve sustainability, and help residents take “full advantage” of new schemes.

The council says it will require “significant funding” for the projects and, as a result, will seek external income.

Though the cash-strapped authority is looking to secure grant funding to help with its ambitions, opposition councillor Martin Goode expressed fears over future financial commitments.

The East Havering Residents’ Group councillor said: “Hopefully, we’re successful in grants, but going forward we may need to match the funding.

“That’s more money we’ll have to find.”

However, Ray Morgon, council leader since 2022, said it would be “worthwhile” nonetheless.

He said: “Even if we have to match funding, it could still be worthwhile. We need to invest in the infrastructure of the borough.”

The Havering Residents’ Association chief added: “We’re working on a situation-by-situation basis, like we do with so many things.”

The council would also be able to bring in funding through community infrastructure levies, which developers must pay when building large projects in a borough.

As per various international agreements, including the Paris Agreement 2015 and London Plan, the council is duty-bound to act on climate change threats in the borough.

Nineteen homes in the borough were destroyed in a wildfire during the record-breaking heatwave in July 2022.

A compost heap in Wennington spontaneously combusted, and one resident who lost her home said it had burned to the ground within just two minutes.

No one died, though Dave Walton, London Fire Brigade’s deputy chief fire officer, said it needed to be a “wake-up call”.

In the refreshed plan, the council has committed to improving “organisational resilience” and response times to climate change-related incidents.

The amount of rainfall has also been increasing by 3.5 per cent each year, Cllr Darvil added.

Havering declared a ‘climate emergency’ in March last year and tackling the issue has been a “priority” for officials across the authority.

Since then, it has raised £3.5million in grants, which have gone towards decarbonisation and social housing, an official told the cabinet.

She added: “A lot of it will be worked up as we go along, and there are a lot of grants available. We’re on the list and can seek out the ones that suit our priorities.

“Match funding isn’t often a condition.”

Prior to the monthly meeting, the council’s climate scrutiny committee had also recommended officials consider a floodwater and rainwater harvesting scheme.

Councillors also clashed over flood alleviation schemes, which Conservative group leader Keith Prince said had not been clearly laid-out in the plan.

The Squirrels Heath ward councillor said he had been told that installing water butts could help reduce pressure on the drainage system. But when Cllr Darvill told him such measures had been considered, he questioned why there was no mention of them in the cabinet report.

Cllr Darvill, who has represented the Heaton ward for Labour since 2002, said: “We are still in continued discussions with various water committees and having conversations on flood alleviation.

“I was keen to get the report to cabinet rather than delay it.”

Cllr Morgon suggested a further report be presented to the cabinet at a later date.

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Sebastian Mann

Local democracy reporter