City to cre­ate en­ergy firm to slash fuel bills Tories slam plan that has seen other cities make loss

Birmingham Post - - NEWS - Neil Elkes Lo­cal Govern­ment Cor­re­spon­dent

BIRM­ING­HAM City Coun­cil is set to take the plunge into the en­ergy mar­ket in a bid to slash bills for thou­sands of cit­i­zens – but op­po­si­tion Tories claim the move could mean even higher bills.

City coun­cil Labour bosses said that en­ergy pri­vati­sa­tion had failed to de­liver lower costs and cleaner en­ergy and so it was up to the city coun­cil to step in.

They are look­ing to set up an en­ergy com­pany which is ful­lyli­censed to sell gas and elec­tric­ity to cit­i­zens and busi­nesses – rather than sign a part­ner­ship deal with an ex­ist­ing sup­plier.

The city coun­cil is not the first to cre­ate an en­ergy com­pany – Not­ting­ham and Bris­tol have al­ready set up their own firms.

Cabi­net mem­ber for the en­vi­ron­ment Lisa Trick­ett said: “Af­ter some 30 years of pri­vati­sa­tion and 17 years of full re­tail com­pe­ti­tion the en­ergy mar­ket has failed. It failed the most vul­ner­a­ble in our so­ci­ety, it has failed the en­vi­ron­ment and failed to bring for­ward clean en­ergy.

“The mar­ket needs to be cleaned up and it is our in­tent to en­ter that mar­ket as a city coun­cil and pro­vide that al­ter­na­tive sup­ply.”

She said the the city coun­cil’s size, in terms of its £25 mil­lion a year en­ergy bill, its part­ner­ship with uni­ver­si­ties and public sec­tor or­gan­i­sa­tions and the city’s 400,000 house­holds will help it de­liver a busi­ness case which stacks up.

But there was con­cern from op­po­si­tion Con­ser­va­tive leader Robert Alden who warned that ‘Robin Hood En­ergy’ in Not­ting­ham was mak­ing a £1.6 mil­liona-year loss while car­ry­ing debt of £8.9 mil­lion.

He said: “I have se­ri­ous con­cerns about this. The aim is cheaper en­ergy, green en­ergy and run­ning a profit for the coun­cil.

“In May there were 13 cheap- er rates than ei­ther Not­ting­ham or Bris­tol’s en­ergy rates. So we’re go­ing to be sign­ing up res­i­dents to some­thing which is not the cheap­est or be en­cour­ag­ing res­i­dents not to sign up to us.”

How­ever, Cllr Trick­ett said about 58,800 house­holds in Birm­ing­ham live in fuel poverty and are faced with a daily dilemma of whether to ‘heat or eat’.

She said they of­ten end up pay­ing more be­cause they lack ac­cess to the in­ter­net to shop around, do not have bank ac­counts to ac­cess di­rect debit discounts or can­not af­ford de­cent in­su­la­tion and ef­fi­cient boil­ers. The new coun­cil com­pany would look to pro­vide as­sis­tance to bring their bills down.

The pro­posed firm would also in­vest in lo­cal sources of low car­bon and re­new­able en­ergy such as solar pan­els and wind tur­bines with a fo­cus on the Ty­se­ley En­ergy Park project.

The cabi­net has agreed to in­vest £300,000 in re­search to set out the full busi­ness case for the en­ergy com­pany.

We’re go­ing to be sign­ing up res­i­dents to some­thing which is not the cheap­est or be en­cour­ag­ing res­i­dents not to sign up to us Cllr Robert Alden, above

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