Cheshire West and Chester Council has pledged to phase out the use of single-use plastics while encouraging residents and businesses to follow their example.
BBC1’s Blue Planet 2 brought home the impact on wildlife of eight million tonnes of plastic being dumped in the oceans every year.
The motion passed stated: “This council will play its part by encouraging licensees, businesses and organisations in the borough to stop using plastic single-use drinking straws and plastic food and drink containers, and wherever possible to replace them with alternatives.”
It added: “This council will use the Places Overview and Scrutiny task and finish group for the borough’s waste review to investigate how we can further improve the recycling of single-use plastics ourselves. This council resolves to phase out the use of single-use plastics, to be identified in the task and finish group, in our council buildings, as soon as reasonably possible.”
But this commitment to action across the borough was not without a squabble as the political parties aim to persuade voters their side has the best environmental credentials.
The original motion was laid down by the Tories but only related to banning single-use plastic drinking straws in line with a local campaign started by Conservative Dr Christian Dunn and now publicly backed by environment secretary Michael Gove.
Asked about the reason for this opposition, Gareth Parker, the Conservative North West regional press officer, said: “I think the story here is the fact that the environment secretary is backing a fantastic campaign, which is being supported by a number of non-political groups, including Friends of the Earth and has now even been taken up by the London Evening Standard, who are running their own campaign to make the capital straw free.”
The Conservative Party nationally is making overtures in the direction of green-minded voters led from the front by prime minister Theresa May who hopes the strategy will win over young voters who deserted the Tories at the 2017 general election . But the Conservatives have been accused of blowing ‘hot and cold’ on the environment over the years.
Arguably this inconsistency was highlighted locally when the Tories used their majority on City of Chester Charter Trustees to decide the Deputy Lord Mayor of Chester should be driven around in a traditional Jaguar. Those on the Labour side had wanted to make sure the civic car was a petrol-electric hybrid in harmony with the council’s evolving low emission strategy aimed at cutting pollution.
Then in a surprise move last week, it was two Conservative councillors who leapt in to be the first to oppose a fracking company’s planning application to carry out further tests at its existing well at Portside North, Ellesmere Port , even though the 2017 Tory manifesto supported fracking at a national level providing there was public support.
However, Cllr Jill Houlbrook (Con, Upton) denied a political motive in moving refusal at the planning committee when she said: “It’s a planning application. It’s not an application that has got anything to do with politics and it’s not an application about what might happen in future.
"On planning we always have to bear that in mind. We have to make a decision on what’s in front of us at the time of making the decision.
“But you know sometimes, chair, you get an application that comes in front of you and it just feels wrong.”