ECO-MINDED council chiefs in the district could look to create a ring-fenced fund to tackle climate change if a attempt in neighbouring Warwick proves successful.
Following a unanimous council vote, Warwick District Council will hold a referendum in May for residents to decide whether to pay extra council tax in a bid to reduce the district’s carbon emissions.
The authority declared a climate emergency in June, closely followed by Stratford District Council. Both councils pledged to work towards becoming carbon neutral within their organisations by 2025 and across the respective districts by 2030.
If the upcoming Warwick referendum is given the green-light by residents, the so-called ‘Climate Action Fund’ – estimated to generate around £3million per year and cost Band D payers around £1 extra a week – would be used to finance ways to reduce the district’s carbon footprint.
Measures could include a ‘district heating scheme’ using hydro-electricity harnessing the power of the River Leam, electric buses and taxis, and also electric vehicles to collect recycling.
And Stratford District Council leader Coun Tony Jefferson has called the move – a first in the UK – a ‘welcome and logical approach’.
He said: “The upcoming referendum in Warwick district is an interesting experiment. Councils are constrained in the amount by which they can raise council tax, therefore if significant demands for new services arise or if there is a culmination of increases in costs or requirements then the choice councils have to make is between cutting services or raising more income.
“Services cost money and have to be paid for and council tax will not provide all the money needed. The referendum gives residents a clear choice. In the absence of increased funding from central government this seems to be a very logical and welcome approach.”
Chair of campaign group Stratford Climate Action Stephen Norrie also said he ‘applauded’ Warwick’s ‘ambition’.
He told the Observer: “I would prefer climate emergency action to be funded by even more progressive forms of taxation, but as the national government still refuses to act with the urgency required, I applaud the ambition of Warwick District Council. The climate emergency is accelerating, as increasing storms, floods and wildfires show, and we simply don’t have time.
“I reject the hypocrisy of those affluent people who will be pretending to champion the poor in coming weeks, but who vote against income and inheritance tax rises at every opportunity.
“We will do our best to help out with the referendum campaign. If it is successful, we will look to push Stratford District Council to do something similar.”