A SOMERSET councillor has attacked “bonkers” proposals to set up a citizens’ assembly to tackle climate change in the county.

Extinction Rebellion has put forward a petition calling for an assembly to hold local authorities in Somerset to account over their efforts to combat climate change.

The petition – presented to Somerset West and Taunton Council – also called for carbon emissions to be reduced to net zero by 2025, five years faster than the council committed to when it declared a climate emergency.

But councillors did not vote to take plans for an assembly forward, believing sufficient work was being done to meet the targets it had laid out.

The full council met in Taunton on Tuesday evening (December 17) to discuss the petition, which has received more than 200 signatures from residents within the district.

David Hincks said Extinction Rebellion members remained worried the threat of climate change was not being tackled with the greatest possible urgency.

He said in a written statement: “We remain concerned that there are still many people, including probably some in this room, who do not fully realise the gravity of the emergency we are facing – or if they do recognise it, they are failing to act in a way that fully reflects that recognition.

“Unless suitable policies are implemented and fundamental changes are made swiftly, we will simply run out of time.”

Devon County Council has agreed to a citizens’ assembly being set up in an advisory role, providing £250,000 towards its total cost of around £500,000.

Councillor Keith Wheatley said funding such an assembly in Somerset made no sense given that the council was democratically elected and therefore already accountable to the people.

He said: “It’s bonkers. If you want a citizens’ assembly, set it up yourself.”

Mr Wheatley won the Wellington East ward in May during the first election of the new council, which saw the Liberal Democrats remove the Conservatives from power in both former districts.

Councillor Dixie Darch (Lib Dem, Norton Fitzwarren and Staplegrove) said it was hard to justify diverting the council’s resources into an assembly instead of housing and other public projects.

She said: “When we look at building new council houses and making them zero-carbon, we have to make difficult decisions. Do we build 20 which are zero-carbon, or 30 which are nearly zero-carbon?”

Councillor Dave Mansell (Green, Wiveliscombe and District) said progress was being made although more action was needed.

The council should look at outcomes from Citizens’ Assemblies elsewhere, including a national one planned by parliamentary select committees, he said, adding it would be expensive for all local authorities to hold their own and did not seem necessary.

Mr Mansell brought forward the motion which led the council to declare a climate emergency in February.

He said: “Throughout my entire life I have been involved in environmental issues – I really do care about this.

“We have got to push the government to move as fast as they can on this.”

The council voted overwhelmingly not to take the petition forward.

A series of drop-in events are being held in January and February to give the public a chance to have their say on the climate change strategy being put together by Somerset County Council and the four district councils.

The events will take between 10am and 4pm on the following dates:

January 18: The Glass Box, Taunton Library, Paul Street, Taunton

February 8: Sedgemoor District Council, Bridgwater House, King Square, Bridgwater

February 15: Mendip District Council, Cannards Grave Road, Shepton Mallet

February 22: Vicarage Street Methodist Church, Vicarage Street, Yeovil