Having chaired an organisation for a decade which relies in part at least on local authority funding, I am not sure if everyone in the general public fully understand how absolutely cash strapped our public services are. With the exception of Covid-19 response funding (which was not always as well used or transparent as it should have been despite the huge sums involved) our public services have seen cut on cut on cut. For a decade, ever since austerity measures kicked in at the UK level, we had the same conversation at board every year - how to save more and more and avoid closures on an ever-decreasing budget.

I know councils have been doing the same, and many now face significant deficits. So has the NHS and other public bodies. There are still inefficiencies, there always will be. But salaries have largely stagnated for much of the last decade and there's nothing easy left to cut. Pensions, being index linked have fared better than wages but with the surge in food costs and imminent escalation of energy costs, it is all reaching breaking point. We have a major social crisis in the making, and if we don't see some intelligent broad scale and urgent response we are going to see social unrest. Even those that can afford to heat their home and feed their family are not going to feel confident or safe if their neighbours can't.  It's in everyone's interest to tackle this and quickly.

And in doing so we need to respond intelligently, and also ensure we tackle the longer-term crises like climate and loss of nature. To do otherwise would likely exacerbate these other concerns and therefore only provide very short-term relief.

If we are not careful we are in danger of being so over whelmed by short term crises that we forget to solve the longer-term problems that are driving them.  We need to help people through this cost of living crisis.  But we also need to invest in those win-wins which will help avoid them getting worse.  Since much of this crisis is energy related, then longer term measures to produce our own energy safely and renewably, and shorter-term measures to increase efficiency (like insulation) are no brainers. 

Many of the things we should do can both tackle the cost of living and climate crisis, yet headline after headline presents environmental spending as some sort of optional extravagance. Climate change isn't optional.  It is both a cause of, and a multiplier for, many of the shorter-term problems we face.  We should be investing in green measures as a priority – they are part of the solution. 

After all, it's insane that our housing stock is as badly insulated as it is, in a country as cold and wet as ours.  I once had an Inuit MP across from Greenland who told me he had never been as cold in his life as he was during his visit to Edinburgh.  And yet we have largely ignored decades long calls for better housing standards and insulation and draught proofing, cut grants on renewable electricity and heat and treated these investments as unaffordable luxuries.  Funding climate activity like insulating homes and investing in renewables would have saved our economy billions, reduced our dependency on overseas regimes and made our society more robust.  Twelve years of austerity have stripped us of much of our resilience – exposing us more than ever to these shocks.   We need to learn from previous short-sightedness.  We cannot afford to ignore climate or poverty...  Both if left unchecked will pull our society apart. 

With an iota of foresight we would recognise that we can't afford not to invest in these measures and with the right vision and leadership we can actually go some way to solve both the climate emergency and the cost of living crisis.