Full candidate responses to our questions

1) Please comment on whether you think reducing climate change should be a current priority for Somerset County Council? 

Caroline Freedman (Green)

The Green Party believes climate change to be the most serious problem facing humanity and that reducing climate change should be at the centre of politics, so we, of course, believe that Somerset County Council should regard this as a priority.

James Hunt (Conservative)

Climate change is understandably something that we should be concerned about as a council, although as all things, it has to be dealt with alongside the councils statutory requirements to deliver services with the most cost effective use of public money.

Energy and resource use are probably the biggest areas of council activity that effects climate change and the council has previously looked at ways to reduce energy consumption and become more efficient in its use. This has previously seen the council invest in Photovoltaic panels on the roof at County Hall and employ some alternative fuelled vehicles.

While I would be happy to support looking at additional ways to become more energy efficient and friendly as a council it would financially challenging to invest in alternatives right now when there is such a struggle to meet the care needs of our elderly population and the other obligations of the council and presently the biggest priority.

Janet Lloyd (Liberal Democrat)

Somerset County Council already has many high profile priorities but together with the District Councils, I think that reducing climate change is an issue that ALL local authorities need to address. One way of doing this is to cut the use of cars on our roads but with the County Council reducing the bus subsidies which leads to fewer bus services, we all need to continue to use cars. (Please see my comments below on public transport!!)

Steve Ross (Independent)

Yes – The county council has stewardship of the county and our local environment. It has a role in leading on mitigating and minimizing impacts of climate change and other human activity on the environment as well as influencing behaviour change. This should be a fundamental part of the culture and leadership of the council across its operations and in interaction with residents and businesses in Somerset. The current administration, in conjunction with their national counterparts have too often compromised this stewardship to pursue growth, savings and political agendas, for example stopping programmes concerning education about waste reduction instead of modelling what should be done as good organizational practice. If elected I would be an advocate for modelling good practice and leadership across the organization as well as redefining the county’s environmental priorities.

2) Please briefly comment on any of the following environmental issues which are of most interest or concern to you for Somerset: cycle routes, public points for electric car charging, fracking, solar farms, wind turbines, tidal lagoons, recycling, fly-tipping, public transport, road safety.

Caroline Freedman (Green)

We think there should be a hierarchy to our approach to transport and that local authorities should use the hierarchy in a manner that does not conflict with other green objectives. The hierarchy is:

  1. Walking and disabled access.
  2. Cycling.
  3. Public transport (trains, light rail/trams, buses and ferries) and rail and water-borne freight.
  4. Light goods vehicles, taxis and low powered motor cycles.
  5. Private motorised transport (cars & high powered motor cycles).
  6. Heavy goods vehicles.
  7. Aeroplanes.

We support the Taunton Area Cycling Campaign and other organisations which campaign for better provision for cyclists and pedestrians. We oppose ever more roadbuilding, which experience shows just leads inexorably to more traffic and then more roadbuilding in a destructive spiral. We have criticised the removal of central government support for rural bus services. We would put money into cycling, pedestrian routes and public transport.

Realistically, in an area like ours, we are not going to overcome our collective dependence on the private car overnight. But we can take practical steps, such as supporting a move to electric vehicles, providing electric car charging points, phasing out diesel vehicles and supporting Park and Ride schemes.

We believe that Britain should lead the way in producing a low and ultimately zero carbon economy. One aspect of that is power generation. We support low carbon energy generation via wind turbines, solar power and tidal lagoons. We are wholly opposed to fracking and will actively campaign against any attempt to frack Somerset.

We support recycling and would like to see more recycling provision, which would reduce although probably not eliminate fly-tipping.

James Hunt (Conservative)

Generally I think Somerset is a very good and healthy place to live. We have good recycling rates (they could be better of course) and our towns and villages are clean and safe. I would be happy to see more cycle routes that are separate to the major roads, although these are hard to make happen for a variety of reasons. I don’t know much about electric car charging points but I have rarely seen any so I suspect that there would need to be some action over this to encourage more of this type of alternative. But is this something that a County Council should supply and if not who should?

We have not had any fracking enquiries that I am aware of so as yet nothing to be concerned about there. There are quite a few solar farms but they do not worry me as they are quickly installed and I suspect just as quickly removed leaving the ground little effected.

Janet Lloyd (Liberal Democrat)

Recycling. I am very OCD regarding recycling. I recycle as much as I can at home and cringe when I see public places that do not have bins for sorting rubbish for recycling i.e. can bins, plastics bins etc, etc. We can all do more and this would be one of my top priorities if I am elected on Thursday.

Fly-tipping. This is a major problem in the rural areas and again something close to my heart. The cost to local authorities to remove tipped rubbish is rising. In our village we had a fly tipping problem in a particular area, tyres etc, etc, we installed a CCTV camera approximately five years ago, it solved the problem, no more rubbish has been left there!!

Public Transport. The public transport system is Somerset is poor, many areas do not have access to bus services at the times they are needed. The subsidies have been reduced but there needs to be an overhaul and a good look at the current situation. For example, there is a bus from and to Taunton and Wellington every 20 minutes during the day with many buses half empty but when a bus is needed to get workers and others back from Taunton, the last bus to Tiverton and Upper Tone villages leaves Taunton at 1700. On Sundays and Bank Holidays the service is even worse. This problem occurs all over Somerset and needs a radical re-think.

Steve Ross (Independent)

All of the points mentioned concerns are of interest to me.  My view is that the county will never offer the leadership necessary on these areas if it continues to be governed by the present administration that is linked to a national government which has removed impacts on the environment from every agenda.  I think there is a lot which could be done and the county would benefit from a mixed administration, not one party rule.

I am really frustrated as I see the impacts of lack of investment in our environmental strategy  every day – as a parent whose eldest child cannot access his regular holiday job in West Buckland by public transport or via safe cycle routes; as an electric car user who can only charge the car locally at car dealerships, on the motorway or at home but not in Taunton; as someone who works in ground mounted solar and has seen the heart ripped out of the industry over the last two years and as an elected representative who has witnessed and challenged the slow process of moving the county to greater recycling (as other counties have overtaken us /while we pour millions of pounds a year into landfill instead of children’s services). My interests in the big issues are defined by my involvement in WWF’s One Planet movement and I would use that experience if elected to contribute sensible solutions to the complex discussions we face as we balance our sustainability needs with our land use needs. What I will do about it depends on the outcome of the election – I am the only local candidate who can unseat the conservative councillor.

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