Toolkit will transform councils into eco-champions

Councils can play a real role in tackling global issues by addressing concerns on their own doorstep and leading by example, according to key figures in local Government.

The national Greening Communities campaign was launched this week at a high-profile event hosted by the Local Government Association (LGA).

The event recognised the wealth of good ideas and projects implemented by councils up and down the land but stressed the need for them to share experiences so more progress could be made everywhere rather than in isolated pockets.

The toolkit to help put ideas into action has been published alongside the campaign and will be of use to even the most uninspired authority, offering a kind of 'painting by numbers' approach to improving the environment.

As well as providing a wealth of case studies, the toolkit explains how 'green' initiatives can bring a council kudos on top of the beneficial environmental impact and argues the case for sustainable action making economic, as well as moral, sense.

It includes issue-specific pamphlets suggesting measures to help tackle everything from climate change and poor air quality to waste management and biodiversity and highlights how all the issues are inextricably linked.

The campaign advocates a 'joined-up' approach to improving the environment and the benefits to be gained from ditching the 'silo' mentality and trying to deal with each issue as a separate entity.

Linking with wider priorities such as reducing crime and improving health, the campaign highlights how councils can be creative in delivering projects to improve environmental quality.

It also stresses the need for leadership on multi-agency projects and argues local authorities are often ideally placed for this role.

Launching the campaign Cllr Paula Baker, deputy chair of the LGA's environment board said: "It is simply impossible to imagine how the environment in a local area can be improved without leadership.

"There are too many agencies and organisations involved with managing it.

"Many environmental services are offered by a whole range of agencies which are currently fragmented in their approach.

"Local authorities are the only organisation which can join-up environmental management locally in a meaningful way, link it to wider priorities like promoting health and reducing crime, and actually make a difference."

"The LGA is demonstrating what can be achieved when local authorities take the helm and join up all the services on offer and steer themselves towards becoming local environment champions."

"We owe it to our local electorate to make clear to everyone that if councils take a central role in managing and improving the environment in a local area then a real transformation can be achieved".

The event was also attended by Local Environmental Quality Minister, Ben Bradshaw, who welcomed the LGA's campaign and highlighted how strong leadership, both nationally and locally was needed to create momentum, to invigorate communities and join with public sentiment to make communities clean and green in every sense.

"Today the local environmental quality agenda is moving from a pure focus on some very important aspects of the immediate environment to one that is better aligned to deliver environmentally sensitive and sustainable communities in a much broader sense," he said.

"Together, Government, local authorities, other agencies and the voluntary sector need to reinvigorate community action. We must join up to deliver this new "green sustainable development" led vision and to do it we need strong environmental leadership - nationally and locally.

"So my challenge to you is to keep pace with what is a citizen led agenda and work with us to deliver their aspirations and join the journey to clean and green."

More information on the campaign is available on the LGA website.

By Sam Bond



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