The WMCA, BCC and the local government climate policy process: the case of home retrofit

This is a brief summary. Here is the link to the full article:

On 19 March 2021 the WMCA Board approved an 88 page Five Year Plan Executive Summary for 2021 to 2026 “to deliver energy efficient homes for up to 294,000 dwellings, with low carbon heating in 292,000,… reducing energy bills, fuel poverty and creating jobs” – “up to 21,000 by 2026”. According to the WMCA’s Environment and Energy Board in March 2022, “to meet the 2041 target and interim targets set out in the Five Year Plan, one home every two minutes will need to become net zero” on the basis of a 40 hour working week.

On 11 January 2022 the meeting of Birmingham City Council approved its 50 page Route to Zero Action Plan – Progress Report. It included the following:

4.2 Implementation of city-wide retrofit plan

December 2020 status 

We need to give due consideration to the size of the undertaking in retrofitting all of Birmingham City Council’s properties, it will need a large strategic commitment. The retrofit of 60,000 homes over 30 years equates to 2,000 properties per year every year (40 homes every week). Our key next step will be to create a plan for citywide retrofit to include a trial in 2021, with a view to scale up towards 2030.

October 2021 update

This project has not yet started as is dependent on the Thermal Impact / Energy Efficient Survey project above which has not been completed. (p17)

BCC’s aim of 60,000 homes by 2030 is completely different from the target of the WMCA’s Five Year Plan of 292,000 homes in the West Midlands by 2026. The population of Birmingham is approximately 40% of the WMCA’s, which would mean retrofitting about 117,000 homes in five years. The WMCA’s plan therefore aims to retrofit about twice as many homes as Birmingham Council’s plan in half the time.

How can the CA and BCC produce such different plans when they claim to be working in collaboration? This article uses retrofit as a case study to examine how the policies of the CA and BCC on climate change are interlocked with the politics of their decision-making processes. (It would be interesting to see how this works in the other 6 constituent local authorities of the WMCA.)

Key Points

  • In 2020 the WMCA and BCC produced two separate reports on climate policy with no connection between them.
  • BCC’s climate committee functions very differently from the WMCA’s. They largely ignore each other’s plans.
  • In 2021 the CA produced its Five Year Plan, much more ambitious than BCC’s plans, and ignored by BCC.
  • In 2022 BCC produced its Route to Zero Action Progress Report, its most comprehensive so far.
  • Questions about the knowledge and the priorities of BCC councillors in leading climate roles.
  • The crisis of funding for domestic retrofit, both for local authorities and for private home-owners.
  • No public challenge by the WMCA to Government on funding, and no challenge to the WMCA’s silence by Labour councillors in the WMCA, or public campaign by them.
  • The absence of effective democratic accountability of the WMCA to citizens, with no direct election of Board members apart from the Mayor and the Police and Crime Commissioner and no public participation with power in policy-making.

Richard Hatcher 

24 August 2022


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