WATCH: Labour group petition council to set up a Citizens’ Assembly

Cllr Carl Doran, Cllr Shirley Boyt, Cllr Andy Croy, Cllr Rachel Burgess and Andrew Gray Picture: Wokingham Labour

WOKINGHAM Labour has today called for the borough council to set up a Citizens Assembly on the climate emergency.

But the plan for an independent advisory group is already on the cards, said the council.

Announcing the plan, councillors in the Wokingham Labour group launched a video calling for the change.

In the short film, Cllr Rachel Burgess, Labour councillor for Norreys, said: “Labour councillors supported the declaration of a climate emergency in Wokingham borough. But the numbers in the Conservatives’ climate plan simply do not add up.”

Cllr Burgess said the Tory plan has “failure built into it” and warned that it would “not come close to delivering the carbon savings required”.

Instead, Labour councillors have joined forces to call for a Citizens’ Assembly.

Consisting of 30 to 50 residents, the group would be randomly selected to reflect the diversity of Wokingham borough.

This would include a cross-sectional of age, gender, ethnicity and attitudes to climate change.

If created, it would be organised by professional facilitators who select the Assembly members — all of which would have to commit their own time to take part.

Speaking in the short film, Cllr Carl Doran, Labour councillor for Bulmershe and Whitegates, said: “Hard decisions will have to be made if we want to reduce carbon consumption — these decisions will need public support, but the Conservatives have refused to face reality and refused to be honest with local people.”

He said there “is not enough trust in the council or politicians” but a Citizens’ Assembly would take “party politics out of the equation and make the decision making more democratic, and more trusted.”

Cllr Andy Croy, leader of Wokingham Labour said in the film: “Only a Citizens’ Assembly will have the moral authority to give direction to councillors and the council to tell them to make the decisions that need to be made.

“The alternative is to stick with the Conservatives’ inadequate plan, a plan which is more concerned with looking good for elections rather than doing good for our planet. Theirs is an election plan, not a climate plan.”

Cllr Shirley Boyt, also Labour councillor for Bulmershe and Whitegates said: “We need a way for the people of Wokingham borough to tell the politicians exactly what changes they want to see.

“And we need a decision making process which people can trust, free from normal party politics.”

As part of the group’s campaign, Cllr Croy has launched a petition on behalf of the Labour group, calling for the council to adopt a Citizens’ Assembly on the climate emergency.

Cllr Clive Jones, deputy leader of Wokingham Liberal Democrats said the plan is probably something the group can support.

But Cllr Gregor Murray, executive member for climate emergency at Wokingham Borough Council said the plan is already on the cards.

He told Wokingham.Today: “The Overview and Scrutiny Task and Finish Group have been reviewing the climate emergency plan.

“We have been talking for quite a while about how we could use Citizens’ Assemblies. The group threw up quite a few challengesto us, and I think the best thing we can do is go to residents.”

Cllr Murray said he would like to include young people in the project, “as this is an issue for future generations”.

He would also like to keep members anonymous, to keep the group politically neutral, and to stop its members from using the Citizens’ Assembly to further a political career in the future.

He added: “I would want to make sure that all people who serve on the Citizens’ Assembly are genuinely independent residents in our community — not environmental protestors, lobbyists or climate deniers.

“It’s important to have a truly representative sample, and those involved have an interest in what comes out the other side.”

Cllr Murray said he has a few ideas over how to set up the group but nothing has been decided yet.

He will be answering resident questions on the climate emergency in tonight’s executive meeting.

Last month, the UK Climate Assembly, a national Citizens’ Assembly with 108 members published a report on how the country will reach its current net-zero emissions by 2050 target.

And last autumn, the Citizens’ Assembly of Scotland was set up to consider the country’s future and produce a report of its recommendations for the Scottish Parliament to consider.

They have also been used in British Columbia and Ontario in Canada, the Netherlands, the Republic of Ireland and Poland.

For more information about the Labour petition, visit: wokinghamlabour.org/greenvision

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