A lesson from local government

12th Apr 2021


You may have noticed that campaigning is taking place for the local government elections – the 2020 postponed elections as well as the new 2021 locals. Add to that the Mayoral elections with the Scottish Parliament, Welsh Assembly and you’ll conclude May 6th is going to be a busy ballot bonanza.

But it’s local government I want to return to with a part apocryphal tale. Back in the day, I recall listening to a local government professor from a red-brick Midlands university speak about his experience of local politics. The tale he told is a lesson for those of us engaged in Net Zero debates.

He said the following: Voters are asked by councillors what they want to see in their neighbourhood, and they reply, “get the dog mess cleaned up off the pavements”. Councillors reflect on this feedback and conclude that what is needed is an economic strategy, that would really improve matters. The next year, voters are again asked what they want, replying again, “get the dog mess cleaned up off the pavements”. The councillors decide that can’t really be the priority, so they adopt a transport strategy, that will really make things better. The third year, the same question is asked and the same reply given. Councillors respond with an environment strategy.

In the fourth year, voters who bother to go to the polls elect a new set of councillors as the previous lot didn’t listen.

Now that might be an exaggeration, but there is more than a nugget of truth in it. In the Net Zero heating domain, voters keep saying we want to decarbonise but we don’t want to pay or suffer disruption. So the reaction of some to this news is to “tell” consumers what they “must” do – involving huge up-front sums of money, considerable disruption within the home and when there is a lack of take-up for this great offer, the response is that ‘the masses need educating’.

The blunt truth is regardless of whether a solution is technically the best, the one that will get adopted will meet the needs of the people. Lowest cost, least disruptive, minimal intrusion with least fuss will win the hearts and minds of the consumer.

Best wishes

Mike Foster, CEO


Mike Foster

EUA's Chief Executive


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