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Council rejects calls to halt weedkiller use

Huw Oxburgh

Local Democracy Reporter

East Sussex County Council has rejected calls to stop using a controversial weedkiller.

On Monday, lead member for transport and environment Claire Dowling confirmed the council will continue to use glyphosate-based weedkillers to control roadside vegetation.

The decision follows two petitions from local residents, calling on the council to ban the use of the herbicide in the Eastbourne, Jevington and Willingdon areas, and in Hastings.

GV of East Sussex County Council's HQ

Green Party campaigner Julia Hilton, who was the lead signatory of the Hastings petition, spoke at the meeting.

She said: “It is almost a year since the council declared a climate emergency and one aspect of that was that we support the aims and implementations of the UN’s sustainable development goals.

“[One of those] is to protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems … and halt and reverse land degradation and halt biodiversity loss.

“Better verge management and banning pesticide use would be a really good start locally.”

Responding to the concerns, councillor Dowling said the council would work with its partners to find alternative methods as part of the next highways maintenance contract in 2023.

She said: “We have already, unlike a lot of local authorities out there, reduced what we do on the ground.

“We have reduced to one spray per year and I believe we are down to the weakest solution that we could possibly do.

“We do have a responsibility for maintaining our highways and gullies and I am aware that we do only look at treating where there are weeds, not blanket spraying.”

The environmental cost of recovery

Can India balance growth with protection of its environment?
A new draft law on environmental impact assessment in India has sparked a debate. Critics say it is investor-friendly and will make it easier for industrial and infrastructure projects to get clearances, which may lead to severe environmental consequences. They also blame the government for trying to rush through the crucial law during a lockdown.

India, on the other hand, is facing its worst job crisis ever. The country’s GDP contracted by nearly 24% in the first quarter of 2020. And for PM Modi’s administration, it is crucial to quickly revive the crashing economy.

So, can India balance growth with protection of its environment? Or should creating jobs get priority?

In this edition of WorklifeIndia, we question if the environmental cost of economic recovery is too high, and whether green jobs offer a better alternative for growth.

Presenter: Divya Arya

Contributors: Kanchi Kohli, environmental researcher, Centre for Policy Research; Ashis Dash, CEO, Sustainable Mining, FIMI; Sowmya Reddy, environmental activist, Congress lawmaker

How La Ni?a could impact world weather

How La Ni?a could impact world weather
Meteorologists have declared there is a La Ni?a event in the tropical Pacific. But what does that mean for the world’s weather? Chris Fawkes has more…

Council pondering 'nudge theory' to ease public into climate change measures

Local Democracy Reporting Service

Islington Town Hall is pondering so-called ‘nudge’ policies to change residents’ behaviour in order to help achieve its target of becoming carbon-neutral by 2030.

With the impact of the climate emergency increasingly making itself felt across the planet, Islington Council’s environment & regeneration scrutiny committee is calling for the administration to adopt a behavioural assessment of residents, and the monetary or psychological incentives required to change them if necessary.

Draft recommendations drawn up by the council’s environment and regeneration scrutiny committee call on the administration to undertake a pilot project with an “appropriate organisation” to investigate how best to implement policies nudging residents towards behavioural change.

The committee studied evidence from academics on nudge theory, which recognises the impact of environment on human behaviour and lays out a necessity to work with human nature to effect change rather than simply "telling people what to do".

The report reads: “The realisation of the need to influence behaviour change in all aspects of society has resulted in institutions and government applying behavioural insights into public policy around the world.

“The art of influencing behaviour is nothing new, and has been around for quite a while (for example coercion); however what is new in recent years has been identifying how best to do it.

“Recent research in behavioural science indicates that approaches based on information and education do not actually work that well, but people are influenced in remarkably similar ways by the framing of a decision, and by subtle contextual factors which are fast, automatic and largely unconscious.”

Looked-after children

The report goes on to give as a national example the dramatic fall in levels of smoking in UK adults following the introduction of public smoking bans, alongside price rises and marketing campaigns influencing behaviour change in smokers.

Amy Jones, who set up a behavioural science unit for Croydon Council (understood to be the first in local government in the country) gave the committee the example of making “subtle changes” to invitation letters for appointments for looked-after children.

The report reads: “The unit [addressed] the failure of the council to comply with the statutory deadline of 21 days with Children Looked After. In this instance it was noted that there was a high number of ‘do not attend’ appointments, where young people failed to attend their appointments which was costing the NHS ?160 a day.

“The unit decided to make subtle changes to the invitation letter, inserting a map within the letter, and the time of appointment, and a tear off slip reminder. This subtle change resulted in a 50 per cent drop in ‘do not attend’ appointments.

“The committee are of the view that all relevant Environment and Regeneration services, which require citizens in the Borough to change their behaviour, such as recycling, should be delivered using evidence-based behaviour science.”

Councillors in the draft recommendations noted that successful results in behavioural change would be in the order of a 5-10 per cent alteration, rather than more dramatic results, while envisaging a toolkit being put together for other parts of the council which could see multiple behavioural change units being set up in the future.

Why Dorset teenager opted for apprenticeship instead of university

18 year old Oliver Whyton will gain 'hands on' experience at HeliOperations, Portland.
COVID-19 has raised significant challenges for young people trying to find a job. 

Levels of home working are increasing, so opportunities for youngsters to develop key skills sought-after by employers are thin on the ground. Therefore, apprenticeships remain a highly effective alternative route into the workplace, including those who decide against a university education.

18 year old Oliver Whyton has recently secured an engineering apprenticeship at HeliOperations on Portland in partnership with Yeovil College - part of an Aerospace Engineering Level 6 Bachelor's Degree course.

HeliOps trains search and rescue operations to overseas aircrew in Sea King helicopters - the work horse aircraft that's now being given a second lease of life since it ended its military flying days four years ago. Over the next three years, under the guidance of the company's experienced team of engineers, Oliver will learn about the aircraft systems and acquire skills to compliment his academic studies.   

BBC Radio Solent's Laurence Herdman went to meet Oliver Whyton and the HeliOperations chief engineer Rob Henderson..