As the country moves out of lockdown, it is critical our recovery is a positive, ‘green’ recovery. That means better choices for our health and wellbeing and for our environment.
It means more ‘active travel’ – or, in other words, more walking, cycling or scooting for our shorter journeys. The council is putting measures in place to make this easier for us all to do.
It is a safer alternative to using public transport during social distancing restrictions, yes. But it also means less car traffic and less air pollution. Cleaner air to breathe. Better physical health and improved mental wellbeing. And, of course, fewer harmful emissions that do such damage to our planet when we are in the full grip of a climate emergency. We have been told to expect a window of around 10 years to make a difference and we are now in a position of us all needing to take urgent climate action – both as individuals and as groups. At the council, we have adopted a draft climate strategy which will inform our policies and drive numerous projects.
Designated low-traffic neighbourhoods are one of the measures we will be using soon to encourage active travel around the borough.
Huge financial pressures from COVID-19
The unexpected but essential spending to support the borough through the COVID-19 crisis has been considerable. It threatens our ability to provide residents with services in the future.
Local authorities have been at the forefront of the response to the pandemic; and protecting the vulnerable while carrying out critical functions of everyday life. All that time, lockdown has meant many of our income streams have also been switched off. We asked the government for support and I wrote to the Prime Minister.
At the time of writing, the government was offering 40% of what we have spent – but that would still leave us with an additional £39milllion hole in our finances this year. An additional £3million was later granted, which is welcome but clearly a long way from filling the gap.
It is deeply troubling because, like all other councils, before the coronavirus emergency Ealing was already facing an incredibly hard task to balance a shrinking budget with the ever-increasing demand for our services.
If councils don’t receive the financial support that we need to be able to continue to deliver the services our residents expect and deserve, we will be left with stark choices. We will have to make cuts.
Leader of Ealing Council
Cllr Julian Bell