'It's not a 4x4': Argument over councillor car choices drives heated climate change squabble

Councillors argued briefly about car choices at a meeting on Wednesday.
Councillors argued briefly about car choices at a meeting on Wednesday.

Councillors' car choices kickstarted a prickly debate about the environment during a meeting in Wakefield.

Political parties clashed over green policies several times at the district council's last full meeting before the August recess, while one elected member was told off for using his phone during the debate.

Conservative group deputy leader Nic Stansby said she was aware of councillors who drove 4x4s, but denied owning one herself, in response to Labour heckles.

Conservative group deputy leader Nic Stansby said she was aware of councillors who drove 4x4s, but denied owning one herself, in response to Labour heckles.

In a sweltering County Hall chamber on Wednesday afternoon, Wakefield Council leader Peter Box suggested the creation of a local climate assembly, which would involve members of the public and environmental experts.

The assembly could be set up to examine ways the district could reduce its carbon footprint.

In response, the Conservative opposition's deputy group leader Nic Stansby said: "I'd just like confirmation that we're not going to be promoting electric cars?

"I'm aware there are a few members in the chamber who have very nice four-by-fours - guzzling machines which could do with being replaced."

Councillor Tom Gordon was reprimanded on two occasions for using his phone during the meeting.

Councillor Tom Gordon was reprimanded on two occasions for using his phone during the meeting.

At this point, several Labour councillors heckled Coun Stansby, with one shouting, "Your car's a four-by-four!"

Chuckling, she replied, "It's not a four-by-four."

The council's sole Liberal Democrat member, Tom Gordon, complained that the authority was wasting paper by printing off bulky council agendas for each of its 63 members.

And in bizarre exchanges, Coun Gordon was reprimanded twice by mayor Charlie Keith for using his phone during proceedings.

Councillor Maureen Cummings said that the prospect of keeping meeting agendas digital could be looked at.

Councillor Maureen Cummings said that the prospect of keeping meeting agendas digital could be looked at.

Members had been instructed at the start of the meeting to keep phones on silent and to only "use them sparingly", but Coun Gordon argued he was using his device to monitor the agenda.

Addressing Labour benches, Coun Gordon said: "If you stop sending out hundred-page agenda reports, I know it's surprising to some of you, but use a phone that has zero, or negligible impact on the environment.

"If you'd done this for the three meetings we've had so far (since the local elections) we'd have saved 17,000 pages of paper.

"It's absolutely crackers when we talk about doing things that will have an impact, and there's something simple right here in front of us which we ignore."

Cabinet members suggested the idea would be considered.

Councillor Maureen Cummings, portfolio holder for the environment, said: "I don't disagree with you actually.

"We are mocking you for using your phone, but that goes through a radio mast and people think that's ruining the atmosphere as well. There were campaigns about that a few years ago.

"There are ways we can improve. Maybe it's something that can be addressed for the future."

Coun Stansby later suggested elected members could be given "tablet training", so that agendas could be viewed on devices bigger than phones.

Labour Cabinet member Michael Graham responded: "Certainly with digital technology nowadays we should be looking at every alternative to paper.

"While I don't think looking at a mobile phone is suitable for everyone in this room -it might be for some individuals, it certainly wouldn't be for me - I agree.

"We need to look at every possible way, and it's certainly something we can look at."

Councillors voted to declare a climate change emergency in May.

Local Democracy Reporting Service