Gregor Murray describes environmental benefits from lower carbon emissions

Question from Cllr Laura Blumenthal 

Now that we are emerging from lockdown how can this Council work to continue the huge benefits that the environment has received from lower carbon emissions?

Answer

Thanks for your question. The response to the COVID-19 outbreak has provided evidence that in modern society we can do things differently. Before the start of the pandemic 1.7 million people in the UK worked from home according to The Office for National Statistics. The lockdown caused an instant shift in working habits and methods. An estimate of 20 million people were relocated to home offices. In Wokingham, the lockdown resulted in a significant reduction in transport. Workplace commuting went down by 54% during April, having direct effects on congestion and consequently on improving air quality and reducing

As we move into the recovery phase, there is great opportunity to help shape how we move forward in the medium and long-term. Within the Council, we are working towards understanding the impacts on the employees from the extended home working experience. We are asking employees to share their experiences and tell us what they have learnt from the last few months and how we can use this learning to shape the work environment of the future. There are positive things we have learned about how we work and engage with each other, and we have the opportunity to shape a more flexible approach to the way the Council work and serve our customers. Until now, officers have been allow flexible working, as we recognise there are many advantages, such as time and money saved on commuting, and the positive impact on the environment. However, we also know that the right conditions need to be in place for it to succeed. In addition, specific working groups have been tasked with assessing the effects of the lock down, collecting evidence and providing recommendations that will allow us to take evidence-based decisions relating to our staff and accommodation strategies.

More broadly, the Council has been engaging with businesses to understand their working practices and encourage them to consider these new ways of working in their recovery plans. We are working towards promoting ‘Liftshare’ schemes through My Journey to support business develop bespoke travel policies as well as encouraging them to increase the uptake of cycling by promoting the Love to Ride programme.