Local government faces multiple difficulties, and economic and political turmoil is only adding to this. I am concerned that there is risk of underestimating one of the most important challenges – achieving net zero.
Across the UK, councils have declared their commitment to net zero, but recent conversations with local government leaders make me believe people are only now beginning to understand just how much achieving it entails.
However well prepared we are locally, net zero depends on central Government action – infrastructure, reliable energy supplies, and a framework which enables local government to implement decarbonisation and change the way services are delivered. Without significant Government support and investment, we and our local authority partners will find it very hard to achieve our objectives.
However, there is also the question of capacity at local level.
After years of budgetary pressure, many councils have had to cut internal resources to the bone, losing people with the experience and qualifications to deliver their net zero strategies – especially when it comes to designing new buildings and bringing existing stock up to the required standard. They have come to rely on outsourcing to the private sector to ensure they have the necessary resources – and a widespread skills shortage means that the demand is not being met.
There is an alternative: partnership working, with the flexibility and access to wider resources it offers, can provide councils with the expertise they need. Norse’s specialist environmental consultancy is already working with our local authority partners to develop a comprehensive strategy to achieve net zero as quickly and cost-effectively as possible.
Using their powers and their close relationship with residents, councils can control the delivery of low carbon infrastructure; and I believe that working in partnership can help ensure that they have the resources necessary to meet their net zero ambitions.
Daniella Barrow is senior director of Norse Consulting
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