The Assistant Director of Property Services & Housing Repairs, as lead officer on the Carbon Reduction Plan, provided Members with a verbal progress report on activity following recent additional informal meetings with the Committee.
The lead officer noted that the planned recruitment to a dedicated officer had been placed on hold pending the report to Council in February 2023, in relation to Dragonfly Development Ltd, which would result in an alteration to Council structures.
Following release of the proposed Business Case for Dragonfly Developments Ltd, it was clear that the lead for Climate Change would sit within the Council structure. Members agreed that this was the right course of action to ensure the Council kept control over planning and delivery.
The lead officer noted that pending the roll-out of Microsoft 365 across service areas, this may be the best option for improving file sharing and monitoring. However, the roll-out of SharePoint was within phase 2 of the project, which could create further delays in effective monitoring.
Members were also mindful that there were now regular meetings between the Chief Executive and ICT on the roll-out of improved Microsoft systems, and that this was being done in a staged approach, taking account of implementation risks including cyber security.
Members queried whether the Loop software was being used where possible to track ‘environmental’ social value outcomes from current delivery. It was noted that this was an area that still required further development as the software became embedded across service areas. The lead officer had access to the Loop software and further training was planned before projects could go live in the system for monitoring.
The officer noted that the Citizen’s Panel survey was now complete but that the results report was still pending. Members agreed that this work was still necessary in order to shape future engagement by the Council. It would also help the Council to develop local awareness campaigns and to influence any future funding bids by the Council in relation to energy efficiency in the District’s housing stock and to support local businesses.
The Committee noted that they would welcome sight of the survey results as part of a future report and hoped that the Council was able to take effective action as a result of the findings.
The lead officer noted that the Woodlands development in Langwith was likely to complete early with 19 properties completed in total. This development included air source heat pumps and extra insulation with the properties being built to a high-spec ‘future homes’ standard. Members noted they were keen to see the Council use such specification for other Bolsover Homes developments in future.
The lead officer offered the option of a site visit to see the completed properties and Members agreed this was something they would like to take place.
Members were also updated on work at Whaley Common where the Council had a number of ‘off-gas’ properties that had air source heat pumps fitted. Whist this had been completed at a higher cost to the Council due to the lack of grants available, the difference to the properties was significant. Members were again keen to see this approach used elsewhere, and the officer noted that this would be the likely approach for any remaining ‘off-gas’ properties.
Members noted that they were keen to see a greater shift towards installation of air source heat pumps and asked to what extent this was being delivered in place of gas boilers. The lead officer noted that the Council planned to continue use of gas boilers whilst legislation allowed. However, whilst there was no long term plan, staff were being trained on how to service air source kit and would eventually be trained on installation.
The lead officer noted that the Council has been successful in delivering a number of external wall insulation schemes through securing funding via LAD1 and LAD2, which had a huge impact on reducing CO2 emissions. Unfortunately, although more properties had been identified that would benefit from such work, further grants were not currently available.
Members were updated on the Safe & Warm Programme being completed across the Council’s Independent Living Schemes. A number of the Schemes were already completed and the Council was learning where possible from each phase and making amends as required to each new phase of roll-out. The works were making a significant difference to residents’ energy bills and the overall quality of the accommodation offer.
Members were also keen to ensure the District was able to benefit from other innovations such as Mine Water Energy. The lead officer noted this was being assessed in conjunction with Derby University but further work was required to understand which sites could benefit from such a system.
One of the key queries from Members was around the Council’s current energy tariffs and how the Council was also looking to generate its own energy. The lead officer noted that whist the Council had previously moved to a green tariff, due to the current rates, the increased costs associated with being on the tariff meant that it was no longer a viable option.
Based on the information presented and discussions with the lead officer, it was concluded that the Council would need to be clearer moving forward on its approach to carbon reduction and the Council’s core objectives. This would also require the Council to be clear on the financial commitment that was being made to ensure the Council could deliver on its core objectives and meet its 2050 target.
Members agreed that following the additional research which had taken place, and evidence provided by the lead officer, the following recommendations should be put to Executive:
1. That the officer function addressing the Council’s strategic approach to carbon reduction should be kept in-house, with partnership work as required with Dragonfly Developments Ltd, for delivery associated with the service functions transferred.
2. That a dedicated operational post be recruited to, in addition to the designation of a lead senior officer, to ensure that the delivery in relation to carbon reduction maintained momentum to reach the 2050 target.
3. That data quality related to carbon reduction be improved, with a clear baseline agreed from which to track progress up to 2050, with regular data reports as part of the corporate performance reporting.
4. That the lead senior officer take account of the Member analysis of the Council’s current Ambitions and how activity was supporting carbon reduction as part of new programme development.
5. That a revised approach to communication of objectives and achievements be implemented, both external and internal, with a full review of the website to ensure the Council’s activity, and progress towards the target, is clearly documented.
6. That the Council ensures that a lead Portfolio Member is agreed for Carbon Reduction from within the Executive, post-election May 2023.
7. That the membership of the Low Carbon Thematic Group is reviewed, post-election May 2023, to ensure it incorporates the Portfolio lead and a link to Climate Change & Communities Scrutiny to further improve communication. It is also recommended that the cross-party representation remains going forward as this is seen as a positive way of working.
8. That the Council website is reviewed and updated to provide clear guidance on current Council activity.
9. That Scrutiny analysis of progress against the Council Motion previously passed to the Low Carbon Thematic Group, be shared so future work planning can take account of outstanding areas capable of delivery.
Moved by Councillor David Dixon and seconded by Councillor Anne Clarke
RESOLVED that (1) the verbal report from the officer be noted,
(2) a final report outlining the Committee’s findings from the review and recommendations for future action (as listed above) be submitted to Executive.
(Scrutiny & Elections Officer)