Local elections 2023: candidate survey questions and background information.
In the run up to the local elections in Greater Manchester on Thursday 4th May, Manchester Friends of the Earth asked all candidates standing for election to let voters know what they think about key environmental issues. Below are the 13 questions with background information and a link through to the responses.
Question 1 – Climate Change
Will you sign the Climate Pledge: “I’ll make Climate a priority if elected”
Background info: Greater Manchester has set a target of net zero emissions by 2038 and reducing our climate emissions by 50% within the next 5 years which will mean reducing emissions by at least 15% each year.
Question 2 – Workplace Parking Levy
If elected, will you support introducing a workplace parking levy for large and medium-sized businesses in Greater Manchester?
Background info: Congestion is a growing economic and environmental problem for our region. Inrix’s Traffic Scorecard illustrated that commuting in Manchester cost the average driver £742 in lost time and an average of 84 hours due to traffic congestion. And that 72% (79 of the 110) of the UK urban areas analysed met or exceeded pre-Covid delays.
In 2012, Nottingham City Council introduced a charge on employers who provide workplace parking – this raised over £25 million in its first three years of operation, all of which was spent on improving the city’s transport infrastructure. Collection rates stand at 100% with no penalty notices issued and the whole system is operated by a team of fewer than 10 members of staff.
See Friends of the Earth briefing: How Nottingham used a parking levy to cut congestion and raise millions.
Question 3 – Divestment from Fossil Fuels
Will you sign the UK Divest Pledge: “If elected, I will do all I can to ensure the council pension fund ends investment in fossil fuels within the next five years and invests in a just transition to a zero-carbon economy.”?
Background info: The Greater Manchester Pension Fund (GMPF) has around £1 billion invested in coal, oil and gas companies – more than any other local authority pension fund in the country. These companies are investing billions each year in exploring for new fossil fuels when the science tells us we can afford to burn less than 20% of known reserves if we want to keep the rise in global temperatures to below 2 degrees.
Many other pension funds in the UK and across the world have moved their money out of dirty fossil fuel companies, both because of the moral and environmental arguments and also the financial risks of owning shares in companies whose valuations are based on destabilising the climate. GMPF must act now to reduce its exposure to these risks, starting in the first year with companies involved in the most polluting fossil fuels – coal, tar sands and unconventional gas – and within two years from all companies involved in the exploration, extraction, transportation and supply of fossil fuels.
For more info, see the Friends of the Earth Divestment and Climate briefing and the UK Divest website.
Question 4 – Carbon Literacy
Will you commit to taking Carbon Literacy training within one year of being elected?
Background info: All ten GM councils have passed Climate Emergency motions and committed to making Greater Manchester carbon neutral by 2038.
In order to help meet these ambitious targets, we need everyone in Greater Manchester to understand what climate change means and what they can do about it. That’s exactly what Carbon Literacy does – a day’s worth of training designed to empower and motivate people to take action. And several of our local authorities have already started rolling it out to their members and staff.
As a councillor, you will have a key role in defining the policies and support mechanisms for your residents to play their part in delivering the rapid carbon reductions needed. To ensure you’re fully equipped for this essential task, we therefore call on you to commit to taking Carbon Literacy training within one year of being elected. For more info, visit the Carbon Literacy website.
Question 5 – Warm Homes
If elected, will you support a landlord licensing scheme to deliver warmer, safer and healthier homes?
Background info: In December 2021, Liverpool City Council’s application for a new selective licensing designation based on poor housing conditions was approved by the government. This was introduced on 1 April 2022 and will run to 31 March 2027 covering 16 of 30 council wards and 80% of the city’s private rented sector properties. Many of these have poor energy efficiency alongside other potential serious hazards.
Liverpool City Council will use its proactive licensing activity to improve the condition of rented properties in parts of the city where home energy efficiency is at its worst. This includes both mandatory licensing of HMOs (houses in multiple occupation) and selective licensing of other properties.
The introduction of Minimum Energy Efficiency Standards regulations in 2018 prompted the council to consider how the standards could be enforced locally and how this could contribute to climate action efforts set out in Liverpool’s city plan.
Without a substantive licensing scheme, the council had to respond to an official complaint from tenants or their advocates about their EPC rating before officers could arrange a house visit. Sometimes, tenants themselves can be difficult to engage on EPCs, denying access for fear of retaliatory eviction should a tenant make a complaint about their landlord.
See the Friends of the Earth Climate Action case study: “How landlord engagement and licensing created warmer homes in Liverpool” for more information.
Question 6 – Tree Cover
If elected, will you do all you can to ensure that your local authority puts in place plans to double tree cover in your area?
Background info: We know that access to green space can significantly improve mental and physical health. Across much of Greater Manchester, the public realm is often the only space where local residents can keep in touch with nature.
A 2019 study found that people spending 120 minutes in green space / having contact with nature in a week reported consistently higher levels of both health and wellbeing. However, as the recent Friends of the Earth report Access to Green Space highlights, many people across Greater Manchester do not have access to green space.
As well as improving citizens’ health, trees play a vital role in cooling our cities, reducing the risk of flooding and restoring nature. However, the UK is not fully realising these benefits with a 2023 study by Friends of the Earth working with Terra Sulis, showing that not only was tree cover way below that seen in other European countries but the areas with the highest levels of social deprivation have far fewer trees than the wealthiest neighbourhoods.
Friends of the Earth’s research shows that it is both necessary and possible for the UK to double tree cover, and we call on you to ensure this happens in your local area.
Question 7 – Pavement Parking
If elected, will you support a ban on pavement parking in your council area?
Background info: Too many drivers are parking on the pavement, and it’s putting vulnerable pedestrians at risk. Over 80 per cent of local authorities have reported that pavement parking is a widespread problem in their area.
Vehicles parked on the footway can cause obstruction and inhibit the independence of many vulnerable people, especially older or disabled people with visual or mobility impairments. And when pedestrians, for example families with pushchairs, are forced into the road and into oncoming traffic, pavement parking is simply dangerous.
A review of surveys submitted to the most recent government consultation on pavement parking indicated that 95% of visually impaired people had had a problem with vehicles parked on pavements in the previous year and almost a third of respondents with vision impairments were less willing to go out on their own because of pavement parking.
Pavement surfaces are not designed to carry the weight of vehicles, and the added maintenance cost of repairing cracked and damaged paving adds an unnecessary financial burden to already cash-strapped councils. In London, pavement parking is banned throughout the 32 London boroughs.
See the Living Streets Pavement Parking policy statement and Sustrans report – Walking for Everyone which outline the actions local authorities should take to ensure more people can walk safely in our towns and cities.
Question 8 – Bike Storage
If elected, would you support your Council installing on-street bike storage in your area?
Background info: Cycling is great for health, the environment and the pocket. But not everyone has somewhere at home to securely store a bike though. This can be inconvenient and, worse, can mean bikes are stolen or vandalised. If you have nowhere to safely store a bike, you’re unlikely to take up cycling, and this issue particularly affects people on lower incomes.
Bike Hangars from CycleHoop (*) are a great idea. They provide lockable, covered enclosures for bikes and can be shared between neighbours. They might take up a car parking space, but think how many bikes you can fit in the space of a car…. the answer is six!
Some councils, like Salford, have previously installed 12 bike hangars as part of a trial several years ago. Others are being installed to provide storage facilities for the Bike Libraries being introduced in Bury and other Greater Manchester locations. But compared to London councils, who have literally installed thousands of Bike Hangars over the last 5 years, there is very little on-street residential cycle storage being installed by GM councils.
Many London Councils provide online registration forms for people who would like on-street cycle storage. See example from Brent Council. This enables local councils to see where demand is high and target installations in those areas.
See CycleHoop website for more details. (*other brands are available).
Question 9 – Aviation
Do you support the introduction of a Departure Tax on flights from Manchester Airport to raise funds for climate action across Greater Manchester?
Background info: At the Green Summit in March 2019, the Mayor and GM council leaders endorsed the Tyndall Centre’s carbon budget for Greater Manchester. This carbon budget is based on the assumption that emissions from flights from all UK airports do not grow between 2018 and 2030 and then fall to zero by 2075.
Introducing an Airport Departure tax at Manchester Airport would help reduce aviation emissions as well as help generate funds for local climate initiatives.
Several UK airports – including Blackpool International, Norwich International, Durham Tees Valley Airport and Newquay Cornwall Airport – have introduced a departure tax to help fund airport maintenance and improvement. Taxes range from £5 – £10 per travelling adult.
Manchester Airport could take a leading role in introducing an Departure Tax to provide revenue for green initiatives in Greater Manchester.
See Friends of the Earth briefing: Aviation and climate change: our position
Question 10 – School Streest
Do you support increasing the number of school streets in your local council area?
Background info: Children are particularly vulnerable to air pollution and at risk from road collisions with cars. School streets address these issues by closing roads to cars at the time when children are most exposed to air pollution; during school drop off and pick up times.
They provide immediate health benefits, through improving air quality in the vicinity of the school, and they also encourage physical activity by inviting families to switch from driving to walking, cycling or public transport.
Although school street trials have been rolled out across Greater Manchester, they are often temporary, reliant on huge volunteer effort and under- supported by council time or investment.
School streets in London, for example, are usually enforced with cameras, reducing the need for volunteers to enact the street closure.
See the School Streets Factsheet from Clean Cities Campaign.
Question 11 – Zero-carbon Buildings
Do you support the introduction of a zero-carbon standard for all new buildings in Greater Manchester?
Background info: We know we need to make rapid reductions in carbon emissions to avoid climate chaos, but we’re still putting up new buildings that will generate even more carbon emissions. The technology already exists to construct buildings that are properly insulated and generate their own renewable power – indeed it was originally proposed that new homes would be zero carbon from 2016 and commercial buildings from 2019.
But developers won’t build them to that standard unless the planning rules require them to. During the Examination in Public hearings for the Places for Everyone plan the GMCA commitment for all new buildings to be zero carbon from 2028 was weakened.
This means that most buildings constructed over the next 6+ years will need to be retrofitted in the following decade if we’re going to meet our zero-carbon 2038 target.
We need radical action to sort out our housing crisis – one that at the same time reduces carbon pollution and protects nature.
Reading Borough Council’s 2019 Local Plan requires that all new residential developments of ten or more homes are built to zero carbon standards if possible. Zero carbon is an achievable standard that, until recently, was intended to be a national requirement in UK building regulations. A zero-carbon home is one that creates no new carbon emissions once built, by minimising energy use and using renewable energy supplies.
The Reading Local Plan states that if reaching the zero-carbon standard is not possible (as determined by the developer), the development must deliver a 35% or greater reduction in carbon emissions compared to minimum UK standards.
Greater Manchester Councils should introduce a ‘zero-carbon’ building standard as soon as possible.
See Friends of the Earth briefing: How Reading uses planning to deliver new zero-carbon homes.
Question 12 – Clean Air Zone
Do you agree that a Clean Air Zone inside the ring road around Manchester City Centre with charges for the most polluting vehicles (including private cars) is a good idea for reducing air pollution?
Background info: Greater Manchester has illegal levels of air pollution: in 2021, air pollution in Greater Manchester was 5.2 times higher than the WHO recommended levels, with levels nearly 1.5 times higher than the legal limit across the combined authority.
Poor air quality affects everyone’s health, particularly the most vulnerable people in society. Air pollution contributes to nearly 1,200 premature deaths in Greater Manchester every year.
Clean Air Zones (CAZs) rolled out in Birmingham, Bath and London have led to rapid improvements to air quality. In cities where plans were dropped, levels of NO2 have increased, and in 2021 Manchester City Centre surpassed London in NO2 emissions.
There is a link between unequal exposure to air pollution and health inequalities in Manchester: air pollution is much more prevalent in deprived communities which puts residents at higher risk of serious health impacts.
Out of 217 local authorities across the UK, Manchester is ranked 209 and Salford 215 for emergency hospital admissions and deaths relating to lung health, demonstrating the need for local action to tackle the underlying causes, including air pollution.
See the full report from Asthma and Lung UK, Zoning in on Clean Air
Question 13 – Advertising
If elected, will you support the introduction of an ‘ethical advertising policy’ on Council-controlled sites?
Background info: Councils have commercial contracts (known as Advertising Concession Agreements) with outdoor advertising companies such as Clear Channel UK or JCDecaux.
It is possible for councils to limit the most harmful forms of advertising on these sites.
We ask you to call for your council to exclude advertising for the following products on these sites:
- Advertising for high carbon products such as polluting cars, airlines and fossil fuel companies (see Low Carbon Advertising Policies – Toolkit for Local Policymakers for more info)
- Advertising for junk foods High in Fat Sugar and Salt (HFSS) (see Taking Down Junk Food Ads for more info)
- Advertising for gambling, payday loans, alcohol and vaping.
The Greater London Authority, Transport for London, and Bristol City Council have all implemented similar policies in recent years with Norwich, Liverpool and North Somerset councils also passing motions for similar bans.
See Adfree Cities report ‘The environmental impacts of consumer advertising’.