Members were asked to consider the Panels Draft Final Report on its findings resulting from its scrutiny into Environmental Awareness of Public Bodies. It was confirmed that, following the Panels approval, the Final Report would be submitted to the Overview and Scrutiny Board for consideration.
The report highlighted that the Panel had decided to speak to other local bodies who were major energy consumers, with a view to comparing how other organisations had approached the issues of energy and carbon reduction and to consider whether there were any examples of best practice that could be shared between organisations. The investigation followed an examination of energy reduction within Middlesbrough Council that the Panel undertook during 2010, therefore, the Draft Final Report made reference to the Panels previous findings and recommendations from 2010.
The Panel investigated the current topic over the course of four meetings held between 29 August and 3 December 2012 and heard from representatives of the following organisations: -
a) Teesside University.
b) Fabrick Housing Group.
c) Cleveland Police.
d) South Tees Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust.
Each of the organisations had subsequently been provided with a copy of the Draft Final Report for comment and either had no comments to make or had provided minor amendments that had been incorporated into the report.
The Chair requested that a copy of the Draft Final Report be forwarded to Environment City for comment, given its involvement in the One Planet Living Initiative.
The Scrutiny Support Officer circulated a list of possible conclusions and recommendations, drawn up prior to the meeting in conjunction with the Chair, for consideration and comment. Members confirmed that they had no comments in relation to the conclusions.
The circulated list of Possible Recommendations for inclusion within the Final Report, was discussed and the following comments were made:-
That some wording be added to recommendation 2) in relation to encouraging cultural change through strong leadership.
A Panel Member commented that recommendation 1) was sound in principle and should be encouraged and supported.
Reference was specifically made to the heating replacement and insulation projects undertaken by Fabrick Housing group that had resulted in carbon emission savings and savings in energy costs to tenants. It was highlighted that this may also have assisted the local economy as residents may have an increased disposable income. Further reference was made to similar schemes being undertaken in other parts of the country and that it would be worthwhile for the Council to explore the possibility of becoming involved in such invest to save schemes.
A Panel Member referred to the presentation by Fabrick Housing and noted that environmental efficiencies on new build houses were scaled from 1 - 6. The Panel had been informed that new build properties for Fabrick were currently being built to Code Level 3, however some of its new-build properties had been built to Code Levels 4 and 5 (the higher the level the more energy efficient and more renewable features the property had). It had been highlighted that the additional cost per unit to build to Code Level 5, compared with Code Level 3, was approximately £50,000, however, it was suggested that this was something that should be pursued by the Council with new developments. It was subsequently proposed that a further recommendation be added to the Final Report, recommending that the Councils development briefs be amended to encourage all developers to build to the highest possible level of environmental sustainability.
G Field, Environment Services Manager and P Thwaites, Property Services Manager, Streetscene Services, were in attendance at the meeting and were invited to make comments in relation to the Draft Final Report. The following issues/comments were highlighted:-
The Officers made reference to photovoltaic systems and financial loan schemes offered by some PV companies. Reference was also made to thermodynamics, a system very much like photovoltaics, and it was highlighted that the Government was due to make an announcement on available funding to provide people with the opportunity of changing to more efficient heating systems.
There was some discussion around several local authorities who had formed public-private partnerships with suppliers to offer various schemes aimed at reducing fuel poverty and improving energy efficiency in homes and buildings.
Members were advised that the Assistant Director of Environment Services was currently undertaking a property review and a key consideration would be energy consumption and how best to reduce energy usage/costs. It was highlighted that there was a potential to harvest water from the large roof of the fleet services building at Cargo Fleet Lane for use in the Councils vehicles, rather than using mains water.
AGREED as follows:-
1. That the Scrutiny Support Officer, in conjunction with the Chair, be given authority to finalise the Final Report and that the report be submitted to the next available meeting of the Overview and Scrutiny Board.
2. That the conclusions, as circulated at the meeting, be incorporated into the report.
3. That the following recommendations be incorporated into the report:-
1. That Middlesbrough Council leads on establishing a Joint Energy Reduction Partnership. This should initially involve the organisations that have contributed to the scrutiny exercise and the possibility of including neighbouring local authorities, in due course, should also be examined. The partnership should meet once or twice yearly to share information and examples of best practice on energy reduction. It should also explore the possibility of collective purchasing of energy in order to determine whether this approach could be used to reduce costs. Middlesbrough Environment City should also be invited to contribute to the process.
2. That, through electronic bulletins, staff inductions, team meetings and any other appropriate methods, the Council regularly highlights and publicises to all staff, the cost of energy used, targets for reduction and the part that all employees can play in delivering such reductions. Also that the necessary change of culture should be progressed via strong leadership.
3. The feasibility of the Council adopting an invest to save approach in the use of renewable energy, in particular photovoltaic systems (solar panels), should be explored. The authority should also explore all methods of energy reduction as demonstrated/evidenced by the organisations involved in the scrutiny exercise.
4. That Council planning development briefs be amended to encourage all developers to build to the highest level of environmental sustainability.
4. That the Panel receives an update on the topic at an appropriate time in the future.