My First Outing as Cabinet Member
My first outing as Cabinet Member was today before the Neighbourhoods Overview and Scrutiny Committee. I had to make a statement. I decided, just 3 weeks in, with a wide ranging portfolio that I have only had 4 Officer briefings on, I decided to keep it short! I also wanted to be honest.
Below are the notes I spoke from.
I am honored to be the Cabinet member holding the portfolio for Environment and Public Protection. I have held the role for 3 weeks although briefings only begun last week. However, my committee experience in the last administration means that I am already aware of some issues coming up.
In the informal meeting later, you will hear the breadth of this portfolio but my inbox says that Waste and our handling of it and grass cutting are the issues preoccupying the public. Strategically, our waste collection contract will need to be re-let this administration so I am keen that we learn from best practice to increase recycling whilst controlling costs. Grass and our natural environment brings with it challenges in terms of some valuing neat and tidy verges, hedgerows and open spaces but this needs to be balanced with the need for more wild and diverse growth to support wildlife. There are members of the public concerned about the loss of species and passionate about more diverse flora.
Many areas of my portfolio people only worry about when there is a problem such as food safety, fire and rescue, crematorium and cemeteries and our beaches. Another is air quality and I have to say that it was a briefing held in the Council Chamber that was the trigger for me to give up my diesel vehicle and buy an electric car. Like many other car drivers I changed to diesel believing I was doing the right thing for the environment only to discover last year that the pollutants from diesel cars are harming and shortening lives. I will work with staff to make businesses and locals aware of this evidence too. Those 7 areas of Cornwall affected by poor air quality deserve nothing less and we cannot, in my opinion, just sit back and wait for Government to act.
Recent events suggest to me that I need to assure myself that if some kind to emergency, like serious flooding occurs, we are equipped and able to minimize its impacts and support our residents and businesses in recovery.