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Detailed work on tackling the impact the environment has on public health

by jamesbaker on 13 April, 2015

You often hear in the press and in leaflets when politicians disagree and argue with each other. It’s often because these disagreements are deemed newsworthy and reported. Yet over the past few months a cross-party group of Councillors have been working constructively together on a scrutiny review group I have chaired  looking at the relationships between the local environment and public health.

Green

We held our first review group meeting in November 2014 and agreed our methodology and ways of working. During the course of our review, we have looked closely at how the Council and its partners work on local environment and public health activities and initiatives, primarily within Calderdale, but also looking at examples of best practice regionally and nationally.

The scrutiny review group focussed on exploring the relationships between the local environment and public health to see if by making our environment a healthier place to live we can improve people’s health.

We identified three key objectives for us to focus on through our review group work: developing policies that promote active and sustainable travel across the borough; developing policies that reduce the negative effects of living in cold homes upon public health and developing policies that seek to mitigate the public health effects of environmental pollution.

The review group has produced and published a report that you can read in full here. It also made nine recommendations in total. These reccomendations will now be put towards whoever forms the next administration of Calderdale Council after the local elections next month.

Recommendation 1

That the Director of Communities and Service and the Director of Public Health, are requested to prepare a leaflet containing details, lengths etc. mapping National Cycle Route 66, perhaps dividing it into manageable lengths, and showing access points, so that local people and tourists are made aware of what Calderdale was offering in its endeavour to support cycling. This would be a good way forward to support healthy living, outdoor pursuits, and safe cycling and it is essential that the information is passed to the public via Tourist Information Centres, libraries and websites, etc.

Recommendation 2

That to help promote active and sustainable travel across the Borough, Cabinet be asked to consider setting aside a portion of the annual highways budget specifically for cycle path improvements.

Recommendation 3

That Cabinet be asked to give consideration to the establishment of one or two data analyst positions to work on a cross- council basis (economic justification for establishment of posts – invest to save basis)

(Whilst appreciating the Council already has an in-house Business Change and Performance Team, the review group felt that a dedicated data analyst resource would be beneficial to the Council in the long run in addressing fuel poverty / affordable warmth in particular and that Cabinet should consider this as a proposal on an “invest to save” basis. Further discussions around the principles of “open data”, sharing with partners and other organisations should also be explored and undertaken).

Recommendation 4

That the Portfolio Holder / Cabinet and the Director, Economy and Environment be

requested to take note of and consider the evidential research previously undertaken by the National Institute of Environmental Health and the Building Research Establishment (BRE) which suggests that targeting the Borough’s worst housing with a £1.4m investment programme could save an estimated £4.65m in associated health care costs (and the increase in economic benefits such work would bring to the Borough).

Recommendation 5

That Cabinet’s agreement and support be sought for the early revision of the Calderdale Air Quality Action Plan (AQAP), which was written in 2009 and is in need of updating.

Recommendation 6

That Cabinet’s agreement and support be sought to the undertaking and promotion of

  • a targeted campaign of awareness of the on-

  • going West Yorkshire Low Emissions

  • Strategy (WYLES) work from a public health

  • perspective, with the primary delivery method

  • to be through low cost platforms such as

  • social media (Facebook, Twitter etc.)

Recommendation 7

That Cabinet is asked to endorse and support more direct enforcement work being undertaken by external partners of the Council, such as the police, through the use of legally enforceable powers to tackle un-roadworthy vehicles with high emissions.

Recommendation 8

That Cabinet is asked to look into the possibility of undertaking a feasibility study into the possibility of introducing designated Low Emission Zones (LEZs) in Calderdale.

Recommendation 9

That Cabinet be informed that it should request a policy paper as soon as possible on how the £1.4m affordable warmth scheme recently agreed by Council providing grants to improve heating and insulation was to be implemented and it is recommended that that the Economy and Environment Scrutiny Panel could be used as “sounding board” on this important piece of policy development work. Links to public health, hospital trust and Adults Health and Social Care, the Better Care Fund and the work of the Health and Well-Being Board would also needed to be considered in taking this work forward.

 

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