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Hampshire County Council must pay £1.4m green tax levy
Hampshire County Council has been hit by a £1.4m “green tax” for services such as street lighting and heating schools.
Large public and private organisations have to pay a levy for every tonne of carbon emissions as a result of electricity and gas use.
The authority is ranked in the bottom half of the first-ever national energy efficiency league table.
The council is now drawing up a new strategy with the aim of cutting its £15.7m energy bill after ditching plans for solar power last year.
It could sell electricity from its three energy from waste incinerators. However, the council is locked into a contract with Veolia Environ-mental Services to manage its waste until 2023-25 and it sells the electricity.
Council chiefs have been warned they will have to factor in carbon taxes alongside escalating energy prices in setting budgets.
A report by three chief officers to Cabinet said: “Over time as energy prices increase the county council could be using a higher percentage of its total budget for energy.”
The green tax – known as the Carbon Reduction Comm-itment – was introduced by Chancellor George Osborne last year. It is a financial incentive to cut emissions but it has been criticised nationally as a stealth tax.
The Cabinet report revealed the county council had to pay a carbon tax of £1.4m for 2011-12. It also warned of the “reputational risk” to the council of being low down the league table.
Hampshire is among 17 organisations jointly ranked in the 14th lowest place with a weighted score of 943 for 2010-11. Southampton City Council performed better with a score of 1,012. Winchester and other Hampshire district councils were not included.
Failed The compulsory scheme requires large organisations which use more than 6,000 MWh of electricity per year to measure and report carbon emissions.
Council leader Ken Thornber said: “It makes good sense to look at how we can save energy to drive down costs and cut carbon emissions as well as potentially generating our own energy.”
Councillor Keith House, leader of the Liberal Democrat opposition group, said: “Hampshire County Council has been slow to get into the energy issue and tackling its emissions. The county failed by acting slowly to make full benefit of Feed-in-Tariffs from solar power. It can hardly object if it then has to pay taxes for burning up excess carbon.”