Ex-eco champ is optimistic

LABOUR in Camden will do a bit of subtle taunting when they formalise their new cabinet at the Town Hall next week, creating an executive member for sustainability position for deputy leader Angela Mason. This will be used to obliquely say: Look, we take the environment more seriously – so much so we’ve brought it into the executive.

The outgoing Lib Dems, of course, had their eco-champion: Alexis Rowell. He was given a pay increase at one stage for his work, but he was never brought into the formal decision-making cabinet of top councillors and had to make do with being a shouter on the sidelines instead. The leadership found him a bit of a pest.

Alexis, however, has a thick skin. He won’t care too much about this job redistribution by the new administration at the Town Hall, he’s too busy writing a book, working on the 10:10 emissions campaign and advising local authorities across the country about how to be good on green issues. Plus plus plus, he’s pretty happy with the way things are unfolding on a national level. You might think somebody as dedicated to the cause as Alexis is would worry about the Conservatives leading government, you may think he would be suspicious about the Tories’ credentials in this area. Yet, while people will query whether David Cameron really will supply the country’s ‘greenest ever government’, the ex-eco-champ – he didn’t seek re-election in Belsize – is actually optimistic. He told me on Saturday:

I feel queasy about seeing David Cameron in Number 10 Downing Street and I felt quesy with what happened in the rose garden this week and nervous about the coalition government. But the programme they have set themselves on the environment this week is actually more impressive than the last government and I am glad to see a heavyweight like Chris Huhne in there. It makes me nervously optimistic about what if they get it all done can be achieved. By this time next year I would want to see all government departments reduce their carbon emissions by ten percent – that is an absolute must. The last government wouldn’t do it, this one must. I also want to see more emphasis on biogas fuels, using food waste to power vehicles and more on PassivHaus design, which is about building homes where you don’t need central heating.

Expected the full War and Peace version his blog sometime very soon.

6 Comments on Ex-eco champ is optimistic

  1. Chris Knight // May 18, 2010 at 9:16 am //

    Osser your slipping check the Conseravtive Manifesto and you will find that the Conservatives promised a Cabinet post for Sustainability!

  2. Alexis Rowell // May 18, 2010 at 9:49 am //

    It’s true – all the parties in Camden promised an eco portfolio and to reduce Camden’s carbon emissions by 40% by 2020 in their manifestos which I was absolutely delighted about. It felt like four years of hard slog was worth it!


  3. Richard Osley // May 18, 2010 at 12:04 pm //

    Thanks Chris. The facts are that Labour has created the role. The Conservatives didn’t get the chance to do this, because they didn’t win the election.

  4. Theo Blackwell // May 18, 2010 at 12:39 pm //

    It’s not just an executive post, it’s a leadership one.

  5. Andrew Marshall // May 18, 2010 at 12:40 pm //

    Delighted that Alexis is nervously happy at the coalition! Of course it’s good to have a cabinet member for sustainability and we’ll see how that works. You can make too much of a fetish of structures and positions, and we have achieved a lot on sustainability from 2006-10 even though the bulk of relevant responsibility on the executive was within a broader environment portfolio. Alexis helped make sure we made progress!

    In retrospect, maybe we should have sorted out and changed the executive portfolios more fundamentally in 2006. But at the time, the view of both parties coming into control for the first time was that it was easier to negotiate an agreement around the existing portfolio responsibilities rather than recast them completely. Funnily enough, I did ask the Chief Executive at the time to come up for me with a draft recasting of portfolios for our use if needed in the negotiations. In the end we didn’t go that route. Let’s see how the recast Labour portfolios work out. The overall culture and relationship with officers and outside partners is probably just as important though.

  6. Chris Knight // May 21, 2010 at 2:56 pm //

    Osser just been looking back on this thanks for your comments and those of Andrew Marshall. Just to fill you in I took the Exec Env role as a full time job and gave it total commitment

    A) Because I love the subject and did it without any soppy politics or hystrionics involved.

    B) Because I have a genuine belief in the need for action on Climate Change.

    Others may not be so lucky to have the time and passion to give to what is a massive and extensive portfolio and I therefore fully supported our view that Sustainability needs specific looking after.

    All that said I think we have done a blindingly good job over the last 4 years and I can only praise the quality of Camdens officers who I have worked with for their lead and dedication, in many areas they left both me and the Eco Champ in their wake!

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