A PROPOSAL to set aside one million pounds to be spent on projects addressing the climate emergency has not been supported by the borough council.

The Liberal Democrat group on Test Valley Borough Council (TVBC) put forward an amendment to the authority’s 2022/23 budget, requesting that £1M be transferred from the New Homes Bonus reserve, and given its own budget line designated to the Climate Emergency Action Plan.

Speaking at the full council meeting on Friday (February 25), Cllr Celia Dowden, group leader, said that the New Homes Bonus reserve is forecast to consist of more than £11M, with £1M of that being “unexpected” government funding.

She said: “Councils can achieve and influence real action, on the ground. Council leadership is needed to achieve a Net Zero future. Show commitment to action, not just words.”

The amendment was seconded by fellow Lib Dem Cllr Neil Gwynne, who added: “Setting aside a reasonable budget for these actions is not just sensible, it is necessary.”

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However, the amendment was not widely supported.

Cabinet member for community, leisure and tourism, Cllr David Drew, said: “I do not object to the concept, but what are the actions? This is just, as far as I can see, shuffling numbers around our balance sheet. What is the point in that?”

Cllr Nick Adams-King, deputy leader, echoed this, adding: “I cannot support it, not because I do not believe in the principle of it, but why one million?

“I think we should be far more ambitious than just putting cash aside. Just making a fund for the sake of a good headline is something I cannot accept.”

Meanwhile, council leader Cllr Phil North accused the Lib Dem group of playing “party politics”, saying: “I am slightly disappointed that the Liberal Democrats are trying to make amendments on the hoof, to score party political points, without discussing it with us.

“Why are we limiting it to one million? There is no point in putting an arbitrary amount on the budget sheet. We have got ambitious plans, and it might actually cost more than that.”

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Responding to the points raised, Cllr Dowden said: “It’s interesting that many councillors have suggested that it’s all about headlines. Why would you not want a headline that we as a borough council are open to supporting people on the ground who are making a difference?

“This is not about us just saying one million. Nobody said that’s where we will end it. It’s an encouragement, that you presumably don’t think it necessary.We need to get the message out there as quickly as we can that we are the people who will lead this. The first thing is to say that there is money available if you bring forward a project.”

Cllr John Parker, Lib Dem, added: “I believe by allocating a special sum of money we are saying that there is more than just words written on a sheet of paper behind our plans. And I believe we could send an important message to the residents of Test Valley that we mean business in the short-term future by putting aside money for this particular purpose.”

However, when put to a vote the amendment was quashed, with only seven of 33 councillors voting for it.

Speaking to this newspaper after the meeting, Cllr Dowden said she was “frustrated”.

“The climate emergency is one of the Liberal Democrats’ absolute priorities and we are finding that we are having to do a lot of pushing to get targets and actions we believe we could be doing now” she said.

“TVBC need to show a commitment to Actions not just words.”

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