Let councils lead green economic growth
On a day that unemployment reaches levels not seen for 17 years, The new green team: Local Government, sustainable energy, jobs and skills, a timely report from UNISON shows both the huge potential of council-led sustainable energy projects.
The study, by consultants APSE, highlights policy and funding barriers standing in their way. It’s a perfect example of how ideology can run counter to the needs of a green economy. Government may know that action is needed. But they are also so uncomfortable about the public sector playing a role that they appear to be content for important opportunities to fall by the wayside.
The report shows that councils across the UK recognise the potential for sustainable energy projects to reduce their energy costs, and believe the public in their area would support emphasis on sustainability as a source of jobs growth. But it also shows councils’ frustration at the lack of a framework for co—ordination between environmental and economic policies at national and local level.
Feed in Tariffs and domestic energy efficiency programmes are identified as two areas where Government policy at national level can fire up economic activity and create jobs at local level, whilst also delivering on environmental goals. The report shows how councils such as those in Wrexham and Nottingham are using such opportunities as do still exist effectively. Now, however, we have at best confusion at worst complacency from the Government.
The Feed in Tariff, which paid councils a premium rate for community scale renewable projects, has been scaled back. This is damaging the business model that early schemes had relied upon. And those who are designing the Green Deal scheme, for making homes more energy efficient, should recognise the track record and huge potential of local authorities in making our homes zero carbon.
Calling for joined up Government sounds a bit of a tired old cliché. But, on a day when youth unemployment edges up towards the one million mark – and the week after the Tories said at their conference they were abandoning the aspiration to lead on climate change in Europe, the phrase has never seemed more poignant, and the sense that our Government has lost touch with the national interest so apparent.
The Association for Public Service Excellence (APSE) has members from 250 councils providing front-line services across the UK.