2015 is Bristol’s ‘Green Capital’ year. It’s great for Bristol to be seen as a city which prioritises sustainability and tackling climate change. We’ve made someprogress reducing our CO2 output, and I hope that our achievements on sustainability continue in years to come. I’ve written previously about green issues on my blog, and they formed an important part of my ‘Jobs, Equality and Sustainability’ campaign to be elected as Bristol West’s MP.
One of the schemes associated with Green Capital was ‘Warm Up Bristol’, a programme run by Bristol City Council which offered subsidised insulation for homes, supported by central government money. In Bristol West the scheme was offered to residents of Easton ward, hundreds of whom signed up to save money on their energy bills.
Last week we learned the unfortunate news that Climate Energy, the company contracted by Warm Up Bristol to undertake the scheme, had gone into administration. Many residents were left with work on their homes unfinished, posing health and safety risks, and some had paid substantial deposits but had seen no work started at all.
The Mayor of Bristol, George Ferguson, has assured those affected that there will be a plan to ensure that work is completed and that no one loses the money they have paid for a deposit. I know he’s concerned about this issue and I don’t doubt that action will now be taken, but I would like to voice some of my concerns about the wider issues raised in the last few days.
First, I know from affected residents who have contacted my office that there have been problems with the scheme for months, including delays, substandard work being undertaken and issues with subcontractors. This raises serious questions about the council’s ability to manage procurement processes and be responsive to issues that residents raise.
Additionally, these events put into perspective the Green Capital project as a whole. I know many Bristolians have doubts about what Green Capital has actually achieved, aside from its extravagant PR operation. One of the projects funded from Green Capital money, ‘Treesong’, was an art project intended to record the sounds of nuts falling from a beech tree. However, it was discovered that the tree wasn’t actually going to produce any nuts this year. The project received £37,000.
Warm Up Bristol was, as far as I can see, one of Green Capital’s very few measurable outcomes that would benefit residents in a tangible way. The scheme now lies in tatters and most residents involved wish they had never signed up. All the while, congestion and air quality are still major issues in the city with little discernible improvement in recent years.
More widely, the blame cannot just lie locally. The Energy and Climate Change Secretary, Amber Rudd, has initiated a cull of practically every government scheme that supports renewable energy production and sustainability in homes (most of which were launched by the last Labour Government). This is both unjustifiable and unwise. Subsidy programmes like the Green Deal were central to the viability of schemes such as Warm Up Bristol – cutting them made this kind of debacle inevitable, and many more companies and green jobs are now at risk. George Osborne claimed at his recent party conference that the Tories were ‘the builders’ – if that is the case I don’t understand the myopic approach to green issues and sustainability. Green jobs and infrastructure offer a bright future for our economy – as well as, of course, the potential for tackling climate change.
If you have been affected by the collapse of Climate Energy, feel free to contact my office: firstname.lastname@example.org.