“Get-out clause” built into Huhne’s emissions targets

The smallest glimmer of common sense has finally emerged in what is otherwise a ridiculous piece of ‘green’ posturing by the coalition government.  To quote:

“The Government has inserted a get-out clause in its climate change plan which will allow it to scrap a new emissions target within three years if other European countries fail to take similar action.  Chris Huhne, the Energy Secretary, said he was adopting the recommendation by the Committee on Climate Change for emissions to be halved by 2025 compared with 1990 levels.  However, he said that the Government would hold a review in early 2014 and would adjust the target in line with “the actual EU trajectory”.”

However, I have a suspicion that if we (the public) take our eye of this particular ball, the review will be no more than a publicity stunt and we will continue to pursue these damaging targets, whilst the rest of Europe and the world laughs at us behind their collective hands.

I fully support policies that seek to reverse the damage being done to the environment by the way man and womankind mis-use and often abuses planet Earth, even to the point where I am about to take on the portfolio for carbon reduction.  However, our goverment’s massively expensive pursuit of unrealistic carbon reduction figures, whilst just about every other major industrial country continues to pay lip service to the issue, is not just globally insignificant, it is potentially highly damaging to this country’s economy.

What we needas a start point, is a ministerial letter, like the one Liam Fox wrote to the Prime Minister regarding the Overseas Aid budget commitment, demanding that he GETS REAL!

Speaking of which, I see in today’s press that an un-named government minister has criticised Liam Fox for going public on the issue of the Overseas Aid budget.  I share Liam Foxe’s frustration on this subject and I wouldn’t mind betting that he has already tried to make his point behind closed doors, but that until now, just like the rest of us, has been completely ignored.  Is it really the case that our politicians only care about public opinion when the ballot boxes are being dusted off and the rest of the time they treat us like children who need to be told by the adults inWestminsterwhat is best for us?   

I wonder if David Cameron will now do the British public the honour of explaining his policy of pouring money in to the coffers of foreign governments, whilst his own people face many years of austerity, rising prices and zero wage increases.

Show me the money when it comes to planning

The cat’s finally out of the bag when it comes to the government’s attitude to planning and how to prevent landowners and developers running amuck – they don’t care!

I’ve just pulled this from a professional planning blog entry and I think it just about sums up where localism is in planning terms – in the toilet!
‘Money valid consideration for planning permissions’
A new clause is added so that ‘local finance considerations’ become a material consideration when deciding planning applications, i.e. government grants or payment of the Community Infrastructure Levy.
This provision is to allow things like the New Homes Bonus to make grants of planning permission more likely (otherwise it would have to be ignored and thus would be useless), but may prove to be controversial (NC15).’

Given that most council leaders and chief executives come to that, don’t really care about the planning process until it goes wrong and hits the local press, I can see the planners being placed under tremendous pressure to approve everything and anything, just so long as it comes with a bag of cash attached.  what price Localism then?

An expert’s view of the wind farm issue

New laws could boost onshore wind farm approvals, say experts

Borrowed from http://www.planningresource.co.uk article by Susanna Gillman Monday, 09 May 2011 (hope they don’t mind!)

New planning legislation could be used to boost the approval of onshore wind farms under a recommendation from the Government’s climate change committee.

The committee has told the Government that further approvals will be required to deliver the onshore wind ambition in its renewable energy strategy.

The Government has set a target of 15 per cent of energy from renewables by 2020.

But approval rates for onshore wind projects have historically been low, with less than 50 per cent of schemes getting the go ahead and the planning period taking around two years.

In its renewable energy review, the Committee on Climate Change said even with a push for more community-led wind farm projects, there is a “significant risk that onshore wind and transmission investments will not gain local public support, given high levels of resistance from some groups”.

It concludes that achieving higher rates of approval will need central government decisions, “possibly under new planning legislation that explicitly sets this out”.

The committee, which was requested to advise on the scope to increase ambition for green energy, said renewables should make a 30-45 per cent contribution by 2030. More than 6GW could come from onshore wind through the 2020s, it suggests.

Onshore wind is also likely to be one of the cheapest low-carbon options, according to the committee. Offshore wind schemes are still expensive and should not be increased unless there is clear evidence of cost reduction, it warned.

Nuclear power is currently the most cost-effective of the low carbon technologies, and should form part of the mix assuming safety concerns can be addressed, it added.

Nick Medic, spokesman for Renewable UK, trade body for the wind and marine renewables industries, said rather than creating more legislation a better approach would be to make a case for the economic benefits of onshore wind to local communities.

A DECC spokesman said energy secretary Charles Hendry has stressed the need for greater local ownership so communities can see the benefits of wind farms as part of the future energy mix.

Wind turbines – a stick and carrot approach

Review highlights major role for renewables in meeting UK climate targets The Committee on Climate Change said today (9th May) in a 166 page report, that renewable energy should make a major contribution to decarbonising theUK economy over the next decades.

The executive summary, only 30 pages, has some worrying comments for those wish to resist the march of the wind turbine across the British landscape.  However, it does also suggest that those communities that do accept (suffer) them, should be able to benefit financially. 

Page 28

The planning framework for onshore wind and transmission

Planning approval rates for onshore wind projects have historically been low (e.g. less than 50%), and the period for approval long (e.g. almost two years). This reflects an implicit social preference for investment in more expensive renewable technologies, given concerns (held by some but not all people) about the visual impact of onshore wind developments.

However, further approvals will be required in order to deliver the onshore wind ambition in the Government’s Renewable Energy Strategy.

Additional approvals beyond this level offer scope for reducing the cost of meeting the 2020 renewable energy target and the cost of power sector decarbonisation through the 2020s (e.g. our analysis suggests scope to add over 6 GW of onshore wind capacity through the 2020s).

In addition, planning approval will be required for transmission investments to support increased renewable generation and sector decarbonisation. International experience suggests that approaches which achieve community buy-in to onshore wind projects through sharing financial benefits have helped support high levels of investment; it is appropriate that such approaches will be tested in theUK.

However, even with such approaches, there is a significant risk that onshore wind and transmission investments will not gain local public support, given high levels of resistance from some groups.

Achieving higher rates of approval for onshore wind projects and for required investments in the transmission network is therefore likely to require central government decisions in line with national priorities as defined by carbon budgets, possibly under new planning legislation that explicitly sets this out.

If you would like to read the whole thing for yourself, here is the link http://hmccc.s3.amazonaws.com/Renewables%20Review/Executive%20summary.pdf

LibDems cry foul – bo-hoo!

I see the LibDems are now starting their whining and whingeing in the wake of the No to AV victory.

In an interview, Mr Cable said: “Some of us never had many illusions about the Conservatives, but they have emerged as ruthless, calculating and thoroughly tribal, but that doesn’t mean to say we can’t work with them.”

Well if it’s name calling Mr Cable wants, then my experience of fighting LibDems is that they are lazy, duplicitous and underhand.

The lazy bit is not that they don’t get out and about, nor that they don’t put out the paper.  No, it’s that they use ill-informed moaning from local supporters, combined with whatever they can pick up in the local press, to construct half-baked comments and vague promises, instead of doing their homework and getting to the facts of the matter.

So there Mr Cable, put that in your pipe and smoke it!, as my dear old mum used to say.

Outsourcing – buyer beware?

Here is an interesting item on the potential pitfalls of outsourcing.  Although it refers to the information technology systems (most people think of this as ‘the computers’) it could easily be applied to all other areas where outsourcing is being looked at as option.  I found the statement about contract negotiation particularly noteworthy, as this is where every level of government, not just small local authorities, seem to be found lacking to say the least – put crudely, they all too often seem to get stitched up by the private sector!

“Outsourcing is good and delivers economies of scale however the process is a major commitment and a path filled with risks, according to a latest briefing from Scotim Insight.

The “Costs of Outsourcing – uncovering the real risks” presents a detailed analysis of the outsourcing process and the risks it brings to local authorities.

According to the document, the risks begin at the tender stage. The supplier is well versed in contract negotiations on outsourcing while a smaller local authority is rarely going to be in that position.  So, the briefing suggests that councils seek professional advice around framing and negotiating a contract.

It also urges councils not to put all their eggs in one basket. Rather than transferring all ICT operations as a bundle to one supplier, it is best to break them into components and go to market individually.

often as a result of outsourcing, in house talen is lost which leaves the organisation unempowered against a well versed supplier.  It is equivalent to the naïve householder faced with a plumber who takes a sharp intake of breath, asks ‘Who did this?’ and then presents a large bill. In these circumstances, urgent jobs may be done only at an excessive margin, as the supplier seeks to recoup profits lost through the typically hard-fought and costly competitive tender process.

Socitm Insight suggests that identifying the potential savings to be expected from an outsourcing deal by benchmarking in advance the cost and satisfaction with the existing service against the best performing ICT services and writing the difference into the specification could be a good starting point.

‘Outsourcing should not be considered an inevitable response to austerity’ says Martin Greenwood, author of Cost of outsourcing. ‘Even smaller organisations that need to gain economies of scale, and struggle to keep up to date with technological development, should consider collaboration and sharing with other local public services as a genuine alternative. If they do take the plunge into outsourcing, they should make sure they are aware of the pitfalls and know how to avoid them.’ ”

Source: eGov monitor – A Policy Dialogue Platform
Published Wednesday, 4 May, 2011 – 10:02

Wind Farms rake it in no matter what

It seems that a collection of these white elephants located in the wilds of Scotland, are now even more profitable than their owners could of wished for.  Not only do they receive a ridiculous level of subsidy from you and I every time we use energy in our homes, it now seems that they receive even more cash when they’re switched off – £900,000 for one nights non-work!  Read the Telegraph story

I think the champion of the fight against non-jobs, Eric Pickles,  should get stuck in to this issue.