At Local Energy we recently conducted a survey of Local Authorities to examine the impact of cuts on their climate change strategy and staff.
The results demonstrate that almost all the respondents had shed staff as a result of cuts. One Local Authority stated: “We’ve lost nearly half of our original team”. Other climate change teams had experienced pay cuts and the reduction of invest-to-save funding.
In terms of strategy, our survey demonstrates that the majority of respondents had not changed their overall climate change strategy. Almost half have made no changes. Those that had made changes tend to now emphasise the financial/ cost saving aspect of emissions reduction. For one Local Authority “The focus on energy cost /budget savings (rather than carbon emissions savings) has raised the profile of our work so that our carbon reduction target is included in our corporate five-year Business Plan”.
Financial cuts have also caused considerable uncertainty amongst Local Authorities’ climate change teams. Almost all of those we surveyed expected further changes to staff or strategy as a result of cuts. Some were expecting to be absorbed into another department as a result of restructuring. One Local Authority stated that climate change adaptation and sustainability were “two areas where there is little appetite to drive work forward in the current financial and legislative environment”.
At Local Energy, we recognise the financial reality of cuts for Local Authorities. Yet we hope that the vital work of climate change teams does not become undermined due to financial calculations that exclude the wider environmental benefit of emissions reduction.