Local councils take decisions which can hugely affect our environment: waste collection, chopping down trees, air quality, housing…
At Climate Action Lewisham (CAL), we have a group of dedicated volunteers monitoring and analysing the decision-making process at Lewisham Council. And you can take action too. You can join us at the Influencing Councillors group (email: firstname.lastname@example.org), or you can take action yourself by seeking out your own ward’s councillors and bringing up environmental issues with them. Here we outline:
- How you can help make a difference!
Help make a difference!
Ward Councillors’ Surgeries
A Guide for all CAL Members and Supporters
Every Lewisham councillor holds regular “Surgeries” where they make themselves available to listen and respond to their constituents’ concerns.
So Councillors’ Surgeries are an excellent and easy way to engage with your local ward councillors on Climate Change. Every CAL supporter can do that – you don’t need to suddenly become a climate expert!
The CAL Influencing Councillors Group is monitoring the formal decision-making processes of Lewisham Council, identifying how the Council can be influenced to better support the priorities of Climate Action Lewisham and taking appropriate action.
However, all CAL members can also shape the priorities of Lewisham Council via their ward councillors as local electors.
You might want to do this in support of existing work by CAL’s Influencing Councillors Group, but equally important is using surgeries to highlight specific local issues or your own particular concerns around local action on climate change and about the environment in Lewisham.
Why talk to your local councillors?
Ward councillors are the local government representatives that are elected to serve electors at a neighbourhood level.
The borough of Lewisham is made of nineteen wards and each ward elects either two or three councillors. Currently, all of Lewisham’s councillors represent the Labour Party! (although some are listed as representing the “Labour and Co-operative Party”, politically they are the same).
Although formal decision-making powers sit with the Mayor and his chosen Cabinet members, individual councillors can have influence through their membership of the Labour Group, as well as through any positions that they hold as Cabinet members or as members of committees. All councillors are part of the “Labour Group” of Lewisham Council that decides the major Council policies. Councillors are also key players in the local Ward Assemblies that Council organises regularly.
How to make the most impact
- You could simply ask your councillor, who was elected in May 2022 on a very green-tinted Lewisham Labour Manifesto: “what are you doing as ward councillor – or as Cabinet Member – to tackle Climate Change locally?” No homework necessary for that! and/or
- Choose the specific issue or issues you wish to raise and, if you can, do some simple research on the concern in general or on what the Council is currently doing about the matter (https://lewisham.gov.uk). Colleagues from the CAL Influencing Councillors Group can advise.
- Speak from personal experience as far as possible, emphasising how the concern or issue affects you and your local community – and why it should matter to your ward councillor. Highlight if your concerns are shared by your neighbours or other members of the local community.
- Consider what actions you would like taken by the Council. It is always good to go with a particular aim or request in mind. Making specific requests makes it more difficult for the councillor to avoid giving specific answers. It is also good to ask for feedback or updates by a specific date in the future, but be prepared to provide contact details for that purpose.
- Let your councillor know that you are a member of CAL. This helps raise the profile of the organisation – although it is then important that you are polite and courteous in your discussions!
- Understand, as best you can, what are, and what are not, the responsibilities of Lewisham Council, so the discussion is relevant to the councillor. There is no exhaustive list of Council responsibilities, nor are there always clear boundaries between one public body (the Council) and another (the NHS, the police, national government, etc.). But there is information on the Council’s services on Lewisham Council’s website (https://lewisham.gov.uk). Colleagues from the CAL Influencing Councillors Group will also be happy to advise.
Issues we talk to the Council About
The Council was elected on a very Green Manifesto. The Labour Administration has made fine commitments. It holds every single one of the seats on the Council. But the actions are nowhere near the scale that the enormity and urgency of the Climate Crisis demand.
Some of the key issues that the CAL Influencing Councillors group and other CAL members, too, have raised with the Council are:
- Retrofitting – the need for retrofitting to move up many gears, for owner occupiers and for tenants
- “Active travel” – encouraging and enabling more cycling and walking, in place of car journeys. Lewisham is behind the curve with provision of cycling lanes and cycle storage
- Felling mature trees – this cannot be stopped completely, but the Council needs to be more transparent in its dealings and to stand up more vigorously to the demands of insurance companies that trees linked to subsidence should be felled
- The Council’s Climate Emergency Action Plan needs to have more and better targets which need to be monitored more closely. The Plan should be revised and updated to take account of changes in the real world since it was first set out
- Waste, Recycling and the Circular Economy – once again the Council is below the London average in this area.
You can also see our response to past consultations here.
If you would relish the opportunity to analyse what the Council is up to together with us, we are always looking for volunteers. Contact us at email@example.com
But as an individual CAL member, there is a lot that you can do to make a difference.
When and where is your local ward Surgery?
First, find out which ward you live in if you do not already know for sure. If you need to check, you can find out using your postcode on the Lewisham Council website and using this link:
This link will take you to a list of all of Lewisham’s councillors. Clicking on the name of a specific councillor will give you information on them, their Council roles and also when and where their Surgery is held.
Please note that not all ward councillors attend each Surgery. So if you want to meet a specific councillor, you may need to return on another occasion, or ask the councillor who is present to relay your concern to the particular councillor you were hoping to meet.
For more information, or if you have any queries, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Please make a note of what was discussed at the meeting and any actions agreed, and send a copy to us at email@example.com.
CAL Influencing Councillors Group