Lambeth council more than doubles number of petrol and diesel vehicles it owns in three years

By Robert Firth, Local Democracy Reporter

A council has been branded a “failure” after doubling the number of petrol and diesel vehicles it owns despite declaring a climate emergency.

The amount of fossil fuel-powered vehicles in Lambeth council’s fleet has jumped from just 62 in 2019 to 148 in 2022.

Freedom of Information request figures reveal the council has bought 82 petrol and diesel vehicles in the past three years. It has only purchased 41 electric vehicles over the same period.

Labour-run Lambeth council became the first local authority in London to declare a climate emergency in 2019. It has pledged to reach net-zero emissions from council operations by 2030.

Councillor Donna Harris, leader of Lambeth’s Liberal Democrat group, said the figures showed the Labour-led council was failing to take action on climate change.

Cllr Harris said: “This is yet another example of Lambeth Labour’s failure to act on climate change.

“First it took them three years after declaring a climate emergency before they finally put in place a climate action plan.

“Now we’ve learned Lambeth has chosen to double down on its own fleet of fossil fuel vehicles, rather than set an example on tackling climate change.

“Lambeth council must reduce its own reliance on fossil fuels, while also doing more to support residents as they move towards using electric vehicles.”

Cllr Harris added that Lambeth has less than half the number of electric car charging points, compared to neighbouring boroughs like Southwark and Wandsworth.

Lambeth council said the number of fossil fuel vehicles it owned had increased due to services previously contracted out to the private sector being brought back under the council’s control, such as communal repairs. It said it was committed to making its fleet entirely electric.

Freedom of Information figures also revealed Lewisham council has failed to buy a single electric car in the last three years. The Labour-run council, which has pledged to be carbon neutral by 2030, owns 108 petrol and diesel vehicles – a figure that hasn’t changed since 2019.

In September, Southwark Liberal Democrats revealed Labour-run Southwark council had added nine petrol and diesel vehicles to its fleet since 2019, when it declared a ‘climate emergency.’ The council purchased 17 electric vehicles over the same period.

Lambeth council said: “Lambeth was the first London council to declare a climate emergency, in 2019, in recognition of the damage being wrought by climate change.

“To reduce overall emissions, every Lambeth resident, organisation and business will need to act together. But we have shown clear leadership throughout, setting out a blueprint for achieving net zero emissions for our own operations and estate by 2030.

“This will mean our own fleet of vehicles will need to become entirely electric. The council has been increasing the proportion of its electric-powered vehicles over a number of years, by ensuring that all vehicles are replaced with an electric vehicle where operationally possible.

“We increased the total number of electric vehicles in our fleet from 10 in 2018 to 42 in 2021.

“The number of fossil fuel vehicle in our fleet has changed since 2020 due to a number of previously-contracted services, notably our “Community Works” team, being brought ‘in-house’.

“This has given us the opportunity to replace more vehicles over the coming months and years, in line with our target of achieving net zero across the council by 2030.”

Southwark council previously said it was working to reduce the overall number of vehicles in use and was trialling electric refuse trucks and mechanical broom vehicles over the coming months.

Lewisham council has been contacted.

Pictured top: Lambeth town hall (Picture: Grainne Cuffe)

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