Council calls for government support with energy bills set to soar by 300%
Richard Youle, local democracy reporter
The cost of heating schools, community centres, libraries and council-run care homes in Swansea could soar to £20m a year unless the UK Government steps in, the leader of the council has warned.
Cllr Rob Stewart said the annual cost was around £5m currently and that these buildings and services would not be able to absorb such a rise.
Last month, the Conservative UK Government announced a package of energy support for businesses and public sector organisations like councils, but it is due to end after six months on March 31 with a review to decide what to do after that.
Cllr Stewart told a cabinet meeting on October 20 that the package “means nothing to this council”.
This is a result of the council not being eligible due to the type of fixed price energy contracts it’s on.
The concern is that when the contracts end next spring, the council could be exposed to a stratospheric rise in costs.
Speaking before the resignation of Liz Truss, the Swansea Labour leader said “the current Chancellor” and “current Prime Minister” had different commitments on this topic day in, day out.
“So the only conclusion we are left (with) at the moment is that our schools, our community centres, our care homes and our other essential services, which are the main users of energy in our authority, will face significant bills without any help from the UK Government,” said Cllr Stewart.
“That position cannot remain. It would mean a quadrupling of energy prices for our services in Swansea, from around £5m to around £20m, and I don’t think schools, community centres and care homes will be able to absorb that sort of energy price rise without help from national government.”
Referring to political instability in Westminster, Cllr Stewart said: “Whilst we watch often with despair at the stuff going on in London, it has real consequences for people and it will have real consequences for people in Swansea if there is not a change quickly.”
During Prime Minister’s Questions on October 19, Ms Truss apologised for “mistakes” she had made, and said she was committed to increasing pensions in line with inflation.
Later in the day, Home Secretary Suella Braverman resigned, before chaotic scenes in the House of Commons during a vote on fracking.
Cllr Stewart described the comings and goings since former chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng’s mini-budget as “absurd and indeed very scary”. And that was before Ms Truss announced she was standing down.
Cllr Stewart said: “We are facing critical times in terms of the cost of living crisis and energy crisis, and families across Swansea and across the UK deserve a stable and sensible government, which they are not getting at the moment.
“That continues to impact local government. We are awaiting a number of key decisions from the UK Government which are not being made at the present time because of the turmoil.”
New Chancellor Jeremy Hunt has reversed several of the mini-budget decisions made by Mr Kwarteng, and said economic stability was key.
He is due to make further announcements as part of a medium-term fiscal plan on October 31.
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