Wednesday, October 6, 2010
Barnet Council's Conservative leaders have given themselves until December to come up with ideas to turn their Future Shape strategy into a serious policy rather than just a collection of political soundbites.
Here's my proposal: Abandon the dogma about 'cuts' and 'privatisation', which might end up costing more money rather than creating savings. If they want genuine buzz words I suggest 'sustainability' and 'solar panels'.
Birmingham Council has agreed a 100 million pounds scheme to create jobs and sharply reduce the city's carbon emissions. The project will start by giving an energy efficiency upgrade to 10,000 existing homes and energy savings in the retrofitted homes will generate funding for similar work on thousands more homes in the city.
Birmingham is a Conservative-Liberal Democrat administration so why can't Barnet's Tories come up with a similar plan that would create jobs, improve the lives of occupants of the improved homes and lead to a sharp reduction in energy costs and carbon emissions?
Before anyone asks where Barnet would get the initial funding, can I point out that Birmingham Council itself is only putting up 25 million pounds, ie roughly the amount that Barnet Council handed over to Icelandic banks.
I'm sure banks (British not Icelandic ones please!) would be eager to lend Barnet Council the money for an equivalent energy savings scheme and there might be ways of reducing the council's proportion to an even smaller percentage of costs.
The feed-in-tariffs which energy companies pay for power from sustainable sources mean, for instance, that photovoltaic panels can generate surplus electricity every year worth up to 10 percent of the cost of their installation. After ten years the panels are paid for and the electricity is pure profit.
Companies and syndicates are starting to spring up to develop rooftop “sun harvesting” operations and Barnet Council's thousands of homes, schools and other buildings would be an extremely attractive resource.
That's the kind of project that Future Shape should be looking at: dynamic, exciting, forward-looking, job-creating and sustainable.