To consider a motion on notice proposed by Councillor Terence Beckett and seconded by Councillor Mione Goldspink
Councillor Beckett proposed a motion on notice on reducing carbon emissions in existing housing stock and commercial buildings. He spoke to the motion he had submitted, referring to research he had conducted with different councils in the country around sustainability. His motion sought a commitment from the council to look at setting up an energy company to reduce bills of residents. He acknowledged that other councils had set up energy companies but had failed due to bad management and gave Nottingham Council as an example of this.
Councillor Goldspink seconded the motion.
Councillor Williamson responded to the motion on behalf on
Councillor McAndrew. He responded to Point A in the motion and said
that the Energy Sustainability pages on the website already
included a section on sustainable energy advice and fuel tariffs
switching and the wording would be amended to give further emphasis
on the importance of switching to genuinely 100% green energy
tariff. Promotion and focus was currently on fuel poverty and cost
although many 100% green energy tariffs can have competitive
prices. The council would not intend on advocating a single tariff
from an energy provider but instead would encourage further
improvements to the energy mix of the UK grid. In relation to
publicity, the council continued to develop its social media
presence in relation to carbon reduction and would focus around
appropriate national theme weeks. Additionally, Councillor
Williamson said that East Herts were an active member of the
Hertfordshire Climate Change and Sustainability Partnership (HCCSP)
who were looking to develop a significant county wide behavioural
change promotion focussing on sustainability and climate change
issues. In relation to Point B of the motion, Councillor Williamson
said it was an interesting idea but would be difficult to achieve
due to the competitive energy supplier market where profit margins
are tight. More broadly, the partnership have discussed the
possible idea to investigate bulk buying schemes in relation to
green energy. Councillor Williamson referred to Point C of the
motion and said that the establishment of a sustainable energy
supplier could be risky and expensive for local authorities and it
is something that had been previously explored in Hertfordshire and
the consensus was that individual district authorities such as East
Herts were too small to carry it out efficiently. He said there are
some advantages to running a white label operation, mainly that
tariffs could be set and priority given to fuel poor customers
through specific tariffs. An EE energy scheme was also being looked
at in the Eastern region.
He summed up and said he believed that the action contained in the motion proposed has already been done or had been considered by the council.
Councillor Ward-Booth referred to the Robin Hood energy company mentioned by Councillor Beckett in his introduction. Councillor Beckett said this was an example of bad management by which Councillor Ward-Booth agreed with but he said it was bad management by the council and Grant Thornton had said it was an example of “institutional blindness” and it went on to lose £30m of local tax payers money. A Bristol energy company had recently collapsed with £14 million of losses having never made a profit and other white label companies in Portsmouth and Tower Hamlets all ended up as expensive failures. He added that the wider energy market had become increasingly competitive with tight profit margins and was expensive to operate within. Councillor Ward-Booth said he would be voting against the motion as he did not believe East Herts had the expertise or time to enter into an energy enterprise and with the significant budget pressures it was irresponsible to consider such a venture with a high degree of risk.
Councillor Kemp said that the council supported the aim of sustainability, demonstrated in the previous approval of the SPD earlier in the agenda. He felt the motion was unduly prescriptive and members had received briefings from officers as to which green energy tariffs are genuinely effective and said he was cautious of the council making recommendations to the general public.
Regarding the point which Councillors Ward-Booth and Kemp had raised, Councillor Curtis added that it was interesting that the Liberal Democrat group had expressed concern that the council had taken on risk in its capital projects but was happy to take on more risk in the form of the proposed venture under paragraph three of the motion. He felt some good points had been raised but it was incredibly risky and would not be in the best interests of residents. He said he was voting against the motion.
Councillor Goldspink felt there had been some misunderstanding and the motion did not propose that the council set this company up but that it should investigate the possibility. Members had mentioned the councils that had been unsuccessful but she highlighted that Essex County Council had shown it could be successful and had passed on a saving of £230 per annum to its residents. The council are already trying to encourage residents to switch to 100% green energy suppliers but the bargaining power increases for a better deal when more customers join together. She asked for the council’s support on the motion and it could bring great benefits to residents, the environment and the council. Councillor Goldspink requested a recorded vote on the motion.
Councillor Beckett agreed with Councillor Goldspink’s comments and said the motion listed potential options that were out there that other councils were currently doing. He said the motion was asking the council to investigate these options, not implementing them. He added that he did not think having a page on the website as active promotion of green energy and wanted to see more being done.
After being requested by at least five members, a recorded vote was taken, the result being:
Councillors Beckett, Bell, Brady, Corpe, Crystall, Dumont, Frecknall, Goldspink, Redfern, Wilson
Councillors Alder, Andrews, Bolton, Boylan, E Buckmaster, R Buckmaster, Bull, Burmicz, Crofton, Curtis, Cutting, Deering, Devonshire, Drake, Fernando, Goodeve, Hall, Haysey, Jones, Kemp, McMullen, Page, Pope, Reed, Rowley, Ruffles, Rutland-Barsby, Snowdon, Stowe, Symonds, Ward-Booth, Williamson
Councillors Kaye, Stevenson
The motion was declared LOST.