Tuesday 22 March 2022

Council Environment Strategy Q: When do the Barnet Tories listen to The Barnet Eye? A: When there is a Council election around the corner!

 This morning is one where I have to say something positive about Barnet Council. They have announced an initiative to improve energy efficiency in the Council. I would hope that every resident in Barnet will applaud this. It helps on one of the main things that this blog has been campaigning about for well over a decade. In December 2018, we launched our environment Monday series of blogs. I felt that it warranted a dedicated feature. I'd been talking about the issue since the blog started, but felt it would be better to cover it in a specific feature on a specific day of the week. The first blog in the series detailed our aims. On energy efficiency I stated.

Energy management. Back in 2010, I proposed that all libraries and public buildings in Barnet be fitted with solar panels. I made the case that this would have paid for itself in five years and then made a huge profit. Had they done this then, the council would have been £2 million better off and used an untold amount less CO2. Sadly the generous tariffs that applied then have long gone, but there is no reason why the Council should not still invest. The payback would be 8-9 years, but as the recent Saracens deal has shown, money can be borrowed from the public works board at low rates. If this was done over 20 years, the council would see  profit next year on its budget. It is a win-win and one that there is no sane reason not to persue. Every school, library and other public building should do this. When you consider that schools use energy during the day when the sun shines, they would end up paying almost nothing in energy costs for most of the year.

I find the timing interesting. There is an election in six weeks time. The Barnet Tories who run the council know that I've been campaigning on this subject. So what does their rather conveniently times press release say? 

Barnet Council has completed the first phase of its plan to increase the energy efficiency of a number of council-owned buildings. The £1.38million upgrade is part of the council’s wider commitment to becoming ‘carbon net zero’ by 2030 as an organisation.

Phase one of the project has delivered a variety of energy-efficiency measures across Barnet Council buildings, including heat pumps, solar panels, battery storage and building management systems, installed in council offices, libraries, children’s centres and two primary schools.

The Public Sector Decarbonisation Scheme (PSDS) works have been funded by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, and administered through Salix Finance. The Scheme offers grant funding for capital energy saving projects such as making public buildings more energy efficient and installing low carbon heating measures.

The next phase, which starts this year and is expected to be completed by March 2023, will see the council investing a further £4.9million to retrofit up to 19 of Barnet’s schools to make them more energy efficient.

Leader of the Council, Cllr Dan Thomas, said:

“We are delighted to have secured this funding, and with the progress being made towards building a greener, more sustainable council and borough. The installation of energy efficient measures throughout our building stock means a significant reduction in the reliance on gas, reducing our dependence on fossil fuel.

“More energy efficient buildings will also benefit our communities by reducing carbon emissions. This is a huge step in reducing our carbon footprint, becoming a net zero organisation by 2030 and a more sustainable Barnet that is fit for the future.”

In December 2021, councillors approved Barnet Council’s targets to be carbon net zero as an organisation by 2030, and for Barnet as a place to be net zero as soon as possible after that and by 2050 at the latest.

The council’s forthcoming Sustainability Strategy will set out the actions Barnet Council will continue to take to create a green, clean, and safe place to live now and for generations to come.

Focus groups with residents, businesses, and community and interest groups are underway already, and there will be an opportunity for everyone to help shape the council’s Sustainability Strategy via a full public consultation later in the year.

Find out more about the council’s sustainability initiatives and support available to residents at: www.barnet.gov.uk/sustainability

So yes, The Barnet Eye congratulates the Council for doing this. It is just a shame that they didn't do it over a decade ago, when we first proposed it. If they had, we'd have had a massive payback by now and we'd all be paying less council tax. The question for every resident when they vote is whether they want to vote for a party that is a decade late to the party or whether they want to consider voting for candidates who have been saying this all along, and who would have saved you money if anyone in charge has listened. It is 100% clear to me that this announcement has been rushed out before the election. How do I know? Because there are no details of the cost savings this will deliver and the timescale. Presumably the costs are covered by a long term loan at low interest from the Public works board and we will see a payback immediately. The fact that they can't quantify any projected savings in this press release show that it is rushed out and they have reacted to what people who spoke to us have said on the doorstep.

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