Tag Archives: Local Authorities

Are London Health & Wellbeing Boards taking fuel poverty seriously?

July 2013:  The Health and Social care Act 2012 established new Health and Wellbeing Boards for each top tier and unitary authority. These operated in ‘shadow form’ over the period 2012-13 taking on full  statutory functions from April 2013.  The boards have strategic influence over commissioning decisions across health, public health and social care and a new Age UK report has conducted research to “determine whether the newly formed Health and Wellbeing Boards in England are taking fuel poverty as seriously as is needed.”

The  report sets out that : “Every available Health and Wellbeing Strategy published before March 2013 was looked at to determine the influence of fuel poverty on the priorities set by each Health and Wellbeing board. The results are based on the 122 Health and Wellbeing Strategies that were available, and show that

  • More than half of the Health and Wellbeing Boards appear to be side-lining issues surrounding fuel poverty altogether.
  • Only 4% seem to be doing as much as possible to help combat fuel poverty within their local community.
  • Some Boards consider fuel poverty in their community to be decreasing. This could be because they are using figures from 2010, an unusual year when (against the trend) the number of fuel poor households decreased, and before the subsequent round of high fuel price increases. These figures are now outdated and incorrect.”

Each Health and Wellbeing Strategy available was given a rating of between 1 and 5 (indicating poor to excellent respectively).  Of the five example strategies examined and given the worst rating (1), two London local authorities are highlighted – Ealing and Waltham Forest. Worryingly, page 6 of the report sets out the 122 strategies examined, a further 12 London boroughs are rated (1): Barnet, Brent, Bromley, Camden, Hackney, Hillingdon, Hounslow, Islington, Kensington & Chelsea, Lewisham, Merton, Newham.

The City of London, Croydon, Greenwich, Haringey, Harrow, Kingston, Sutton, Westminster are rated (2). Havering and Wandsworth are rated (3). A few boroughs appear to have been omitted from the table on page 6 – but are referenced in the Appendix on page 19. Barking and Dagenham actually scores the highest with a (4), Redbrige a (3), Richmond (2), and Tower Hamlets (1). Strategies for Bexley, Enfield, Hammersmith & Fulham and Lambeth were not available to the survey team. Page 19 also mentions that Southwark’s stategy could not be found.

The results are highly surprising, rating some London local authorities which have significant fuel poverty programmes in place very low (Islington being the most obvious – with its award-winning SHINE programme – which is now also being utilised by Hackney), suggesting that the consultation process that took place to establish these strategies failed to engage properly with relevant officers delivering such services. The Mayor has recently responded to some questions to him regarding his role in raising energy issues to the new Health and Wellbeing Boards – highlighting some recent work undertaken by the London Climate Change Partnership and stating that further guidance ‘bespoke environmental guidance for the 33 health and wellbeing boards in London is curently being drafted (see here and here).  Details of the new London Health Board, also critical to this discussion, can be seen in an earlier post here.

National Energy Action (NEA) held an excellent event earlier this year in Southwark – Achieving public health outcomes on fuel poverty and excess winter deaths – which looked at how health management is being devolved to local authorities and how fuel poverty needs to be integrated in these new strategies. Presentations from the seminar are available here.

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HECA & London

July 2013:  Last year the Government issued new guidance, issued under the Home Energy Conservation Act (HECA), requiring all  (English) local authorities to publish a report by 31 March 2013 setting out their plans to achieve improved energy efficiency. Before looking at how London boroughs responded to this new requirement, it helps to have  a quick look back to how this all came about…

Following a short limited release consultation in June 2012 – DECC published its new guidance on 26 July 2012 for local authorities (or – as the guidance states – to English Energy Conservation Authorities) with Minister Greg Barker stating in the accompanying  press release that:

“This new robust guidance will support and encourage all local authorities to realise the significant benefits of upgrading homes. The Green Deal will be a fantastic tool to help with this, and I look forward to hearing how local authorities are using it to enable people to save energy and money.”

“A well developed report in response to HECA, highlighting key opportunities, will help attract potential funding partners to work with the authority and other local community groups and stakeholders to the benefit of local residents and businesses.”

A Local Government Association briefing note produced shortly after provides some useful background on the guidance requirements.

Continue reading…

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IMF point to local authorities to support recovery

22 May 2013: Interesting to see that today’s International Monetary Fund (IMF) statement United Kingdom—2013 Article IV Consultation Concluding Statement of the Mission – includes the following recommendation to the Chancellor:

“Investment in infrastructure, notably in transport and energy, could be supported by streamlining the planning application process and removing regulatory uncertainty. To accelerate the implementation of infrastructure projects, more authority over planning decisions should be devolved to local authorities, with financial incentives provided through greater revenue sharing.”

Further information on the IMF’s findings can be found on the following press release – U.K. Should Restore Growth, Rebalance Economy.

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London CRC Performance

April 2013: The Carbon Reduction Commitment (CRC) Performance Table was published a few weeks ago and attracted some media attention on who had gone up and down the table (see Guardian article here). The CRC is a complex mechanism and Government has had to return to tweak the policy time and again to simplify it. Along with the performance table, it appears the Chancellor’s view of simplification is, as set out in his Autumn Statement (December 2012), to get rid of the CRC altogether.

“1.127 The CRC’s Performance League Table will be abolished, to simplify the scheme further. A full review of the effectiveness of the CRC will be held in 2016 and the tax will be a high priority for removal when the public finances allow.”

For those new to the CRC, they should be made aware the original plan of the policy was to recycle the funds obtained from participants purchase of carbon permits, into sector-wide energy efficiency funding. The incoming Government however changed plans in 2010 and the Chancellor simply took all the funds into Government. It’s more than likely the Government would like to see the back of the CRC sooner, however, it does bring in close to £1bn to the Exchequer a year and this will increase again, as  the 2012 Autumn Budget highlights:  “2.88 The forecast allowance price remains unchanged at £12 per tonne of carbon dioxide in 2013-14 and £16 per tonne of carbon dioxide in 2014-15. From 2015-16 onwards, the allowance price will increase in line with the RPI.”

Back to the performance table: how did London do?

Continue reading…

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Islington – “Heating rebate helps thousands”

8 January 2013: Islington news release: Three-thousand council tenants with communal heating or hot water will receive a rebate of at least £145 per household next month, as the council prepares to pass on savings it has made in buying gas.

“Islington Council has secured an improved deal in its bulk purchasing of gas for estates with communal heating and hot water, which means the savings from the lower cost of gas can be passed on to tenants.” Read the full release here.

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Government Policy on generation of electricity by local authorities

17 December 2012: John Pugh, MP for Southport, has asked a useful parliamentary question around what the Government’s position is on promoting the generation of electricity by local authorities. Apparently it has one.

Col 534W: John Pugh: To ask the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change what his policy is on the generation of electricity by local authorities; and if he will make a statement.

Gregory Barker:  In 2010, we gave local authorities the power to sell electricity generated from renewable sources. It is therefore up to local authorities to generate and sell electricity if they wish and we are encouraging them to do so where this is appropriate. We have also facilitated this through ‘lite’ electricity supply licence, which would allow a local authority district heating operator to sell electricity at retail rates to consumers.

We are also supporting community ownership of localised renewable energy projects through the Feed-in-Tariffs scheme. Local projects engage neighbourhoods and communities in becoming involved with generating local heat and power e.g. Combined Heat and Power with District Heating (CHP-DH) networks in Woking, Southampton, Nottingham and Sheffield.

Local authorities also have a role in encouraging energy efficiency take up, including the Green Deal, and looking after consumer interests, for example, through the pioneer places and core cities initiatives and through supporting or running collective switching schemes.

Some points on this:

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Evaluation of DECC Local Authority Competitions

December 2012: DECC have issued a tender to evaluate a series of competitions they have recently launched and the Invitation to Tender (ITT) document provides some useful information on the background to how the department will measure the success of these three particular schemes – which are:

  • “Fuel Poverty Fund (£25m) The overall aim of the project is to reduce the extent of fuel poverty through the provision of resources to support improvements to the thermal efficiency of dwellings.
  • The Green Deal Pioneer Places Fund (£10m)The primary purpose of the funding is for local authorities (LAs) and/or consortia of LAs (e.g. counties) to demonstrate ambitious approaches to kick starting local Green Deal activity in both the domestic and non-domestic sectors in England.
  • ‘Cheaper Energy Together’ collective switching fund (£5m)The primary purpose of the funding is to support innovative collective switching or purchasing schemes by Local Authorities or third sector organisations which aim to achieve better deals on energy bills for consumers through collective purchasing power.

Applications for the competitions were submitted at the end of November.  We expect the majority of project activity to complete by the end of March. “

The winners have as yet not been announced by Government: Secretary of State Ed Davey did however recently say that  115 applications had been received to “Cheaper Energy Together” competition.

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The DECC-Local Government MoU

November 2012: A recent Parliamentary Question has provided an update, of sorts, on the DECC-Local Government MoU. Firstly – a quick re-cap. On 9 March 2011 Chris Huhne, the former Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, signed a “ground-breaking Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) designed to recognise the pivotal role local councils have in tackling climate change.See the full news release issued at the time here. The MoU itself can be downloaded here.

The MoU set out how DECC and the Local Government (LG) Group would work together to help and encourage all councils to take firm action to:

  • reduce the carbon emissions from their own estate and operations
  • reduce carbon emissions from homes, businesses and transport infrastructure, creating more, appropriate renewable energy generation, using council influence and powers; and
  • participate in national carbon reduction initiatives at the local level, particularly the roll out of the Green Deal, smart metering and renewable energy deployment.

The MoU was to be underpinned by a number of actions including a management board on which DECC and the LG Group will be represented and an action plan that would take forward specific actions outlined in the LG Group ‘offer’ to DECC.

Though there has been some movement in DECC’s relationship with local government this year, specifically the publication of revised HECA guidance, and the commissioning of the Committee on Climate Change to provide guidance for local authorities (also see here) on reducing carbon emissions, there has been next to no mention of the MoU. It was therefore useful that Shadow Energy Minister Luciana Berger MP recently raised the issue of progress on some  specific actions raised in the MoU:

Luciana Berger: To ask the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change (1) with reference to his Department’s Memorandum of Understanding with the Local Government Group, what steps his Department is taking to ensure that its policy-making process takes account of the role of local councils in achieving or developing policy; [126591]
(2) when his Department plans to publish a review of the Memorandum of Understanding between his Department and the Local Government Group; [126592]
(3) whether he has met senior political representatives from the Local Government Group of the Local Government Association to review the Memorandum of Understanding, the Annual Report and council action on climate change set out in the Memorandum of Understanding between his Department and the Local Government Group; [126593]
(4) which senior civil servants from his Department have been assigned to work with the Local Government Association on steps to ensure that the milestones in Annex A of the Memorandum of Understanding between his Department and the Local Government Group are met; [126596]
(5) what meetings his Department has facilitated between the Local Government Group and other Government departments as set out in the Memorandum of Understanding between his Department and the Local Government Group. [126597]

Gregory Barker: My officials and I hold discussions with the Local Government Association (LGA) on a range of policy issues of mutual interest, including on the memorandum of understanding (MoU).
To my knowledge, the Department has not facilitated meetings between the LGA and other Government Departments.
I am currently discussing with the LGA the report of progress against the MoU. This work is led in DECC by officials from the Energy Efficiency Deployment Office.

A further PQ on another MoU action elicited a similar disappointing response:

Luciana Berger: To ask the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change (1) who sits on his Department’s Devolved, Sub-National Reform and Local Carbon Accountability Project Board; [126594]
(2) how many times his Department’s Devolved, Sub-National Reform and Local Carbon Accountability Project Board has met since March 2011. [126595]

Gregory Barker: The Devolved, Sub-National Reform and Local Carbon Accountability Project Board membership comprised officials from DECC, the Department of Communities and Local Government, HM Treasury, Department of Business, Innovation and Skills and the Local Government Association.
There have been no meetings of the board since March 2011.

A final (to date) attempt by Ms Berger to find out how DECC was working with local government on energy issues didn’t help either.

A speech by Ed Davey to the LGA earlier this year highlighted the importance of local authorities stating “the more I do the job, it’s clearer that national government can’t deliver on its energy and climate change policy without local government.” It’s hence a great shame that this unique relationship on energy and climate issues between central and local government has been all but abandoned.

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‘Put green energy into local hands’

12 October 2012: Good letter in today’s Financial Times:

“Sir, Your report about how numerous German towns, cities and regions are leading the country’s Energiewende away from nuclear power towards renewables and energy efficiency makes for fascinating reading (“Market reforms move power to the people”, Analysis, October 10). This is what the UK government’s “green deal” and “green investment bank” should be all about – giving local authorities the resources to promote community renewable energy schemes, energy efficiency and microgeneration projects; and this may possibly allow for any profits to be reinvested into local services stretched to the limit in the current recession.

If cities such as Munich, Cologne and Hamburg can lead the way with such policies, why not Manchester, Glasgow and Cardiff or Fife, Caerphilly and the Shetland Islands? Local councils have a much greater appreciation of local energy needs and the energy-saving measures that can help reduce fuel poverty than Whitehall mandarins. I know there is a great appetite in local government for moving from an overly centralised energy market towards satisfying decentralised community energy needs.

If this policy was energetically pursued then I believe there would be no need to worry about the lights going out in 2015, and the billions of pounds of public money planned for new nuclear or shale fracking investment could rather be diverted to a clean, jobs-rich and sustainable energy alternative.

Brian Goodall, Chair, UK and Ireland Nuclear Free Local Authorities, c/o NFLA Secretariat, Manchester, UK”

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New Climate Local Initiative Launched

28 June 2012Waltham Forest, Islington, Camden and Sutton are amongst the first 18 local authorities to sign up to a new ‘Climate Local Commitment’ launched today at the Local Government Association’s (LGA) annual conference.  Climate Local “will see councils committing to their own local actions to reduce carbon emissions and improve their ability to protect people and services from the anticipated changes in the weather.”

Climate Local will build on the Nottingham Declaration, launched in 2000, and the LGA news release states that “As part of the new scheme, local authorities will be sharing ideas and advice on the best ways to save money on their gas and electricity use and ensure there are preparations in place for keeping to a minimum disruption caused by extreme weather like snow, floods and heat waves.”

Further details are posted on the Climate Local webpage which includes the Climate Local Commitment form and also a  Climate Local Information Pack for local authorities.

Ed Davey, the Secretary of State for Energy, spoke at the conference stating that “…the role of councils in energy and climate change policy is much, much greater than even the LGA may currently think…I want to set out three strategic roles for local authorities in energy and climate change. First, in buying energy. Second, in saving energy. Third, in generating energy.”

On the Green Deal, Mr Davey said:Local authorities and communities, who have the trust and faith of local people, will be essential partners in delivering the Green Deal.
Local authorities are leading work on financing models and joining together to create community interest companies. Six are involved in the Green Deal Finance Company.
Some are taking huge leaps forward – like Birmingham, which is pushing ahead with a £1.5 billion Energy Savers scheme, or Newcastle, which is leading a Green Deal partnership scheme which spans the North East. The GLA is bringing together the London boroughs.

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Greenhouse Gas summary reports

15 June 2012: DECC have issued a series of useful summary documents on greenhouse emissions related to key sectors:

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‘Councils can lead green deal’

May 2012: Article highlighting work undertaken by the Association for Public Service Excellence setting out that “central government must unlock local authorities’ potential to develop the green economy as a matter of urgency…Local authorities should also have greater financial freedom to boost the green economy. For example, they could offer council tax rebates to households that reduce carbon usage. This could be complemented by a tax exemption on low-carbon regeneration projects that are financed through municipal bonds. The exemption would be a temporary measure to stimulate green growth until the UK economy fully recovers.

Other measures outlined in the report include requiring the electricity industry to work on district energy planning and making Feed-In Tariffs viable for large-scale social housing schemes.”

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