Southwark Liberal Democrats criticise Labour’s “dither and delay” on putting Climate Change at the heart of the council

Southwark Liberal Democrats have criticised Labour-run Southwark Council for its “dither and delay” over climate change, having failed to take any meaningful action despite declaring a Climate Emergency over 2 years ago.

Three months ago, the Southwark Liberal Democrat Council Group wrote to the Labour Cabinet Member, calling for the Climate Emergency to be at the heart of council decision making, by requiring that all council decisions include a climate impact assessment.

At Monday’s Annual General Meeting of Southwark Council (the first in-person meeting since the start of the Coronavirus pandemic), a constitutional report makes vague reference to the proposed change but suggests that approval will not be sought until July 2021 at the earliest.

Southwark Council’s Leader also announced at that same meeting that Labour’s Cabinet Member for the Climate Emergency would change for the third time in 12 months, with five changes in five years (including to the previous encompassing Environment portfolio).

The climate is changing why aren't we?Photo Credit by Markus Spiske

Criticising the delay and calling for changes to the way the climate emergency is managed, Leader of the Southwark Liberal Democrats, Cllr Hamish McCallum, said:

“Climate Change is the single biggest threat to our planet. Every year that we fail to act is a loss to a generation of the future”.

“We are pleased that Labour have listened to our suggestion and agreed to introduce this change to the way the council takes decisions, but there is no reason why this simple change could not have been approved immediately and introduced as a matter of urgency.

“The repeated changes to the relevant Cabinet Member is also very concerning, meaning that oversight and leadership on this key issue is being lost and the implementation of urgently needed changes is being delayed.”

“Southwark Council unanimously declared a Climate Emergency more than two years ago, but Labour are still talking about changes in the distant future instead of taking action today. This dither and delay has to stop.”

Cllr Adele Morris, Southwark Liberal Democrats Spokesperson for the Climate Emergency and expert on climate change said:

“Southwark Labour’s failed track record speaks for itself - burning £15 million of fossil fuels and cutting down 1000s of trees each year, 7 years of virtually stalled recycling rates, failing to enforce the net zero carbon targets in planning policies, failing on delivering the cycling infrastructure south of the Elephant and Castle. Thankfully, they recently listened to our calls for bringing trams to Southwark, which we first proposed over 10 years ago”

The Southwark Liberal Democrat Council Group letter to the Cabinet Members for Climate Emergency, Planning and Transport and Labour Cabinet Member for Leisure, Environment and Roads sent in February, 2021 called on the council to

“add a value to the council’s framework like "Rapid and Positive Climate Change Action" that encourages the council to act now rather than put off for another year on all aspects of what it does and incentivise and measure all strategic director level and below management across the council on this. It should also include council decision making and commit to including an 'impact assessment' of every decision and how much it contributes to climate change improvement.”

The changes in Labour cabinet members since 2015 are:

  • 2015-16 Cabinet Member for Environment and the Public Realm – Cllr Darren Merrill
  • 2016-18 Cabinet Member for Environment and the Public Realm – Councillor Ian
  • 2018-20 Cabinet Member for Environment, Transport Management and Air Quality – Councillor Richard Livingstone
  • 2020-21 Cabinet Member for Climate Emergency, Planning and Transport – Councillor
    Johnson Situ
  • 2021-22 Cabinet Member for the Climate Emergency and Sustainable Development - Councillor Helen Dennis


The Southwark Liberal Democrat Council Group are scrutinising Southwark labour and the council on its failure to act faster and more responsibly on climate change ‘to deadlines – not headlines’.  They have written to the cabinet members in charge outlining how the council could go ‘Go Greener Faster’ by taking responsible rapid actions to reduce the council’s carbon footprint immediately.

See the Letter here ->

For more information please email: [email protected]