Green councillors have submitted an amendment to next week’s budget which funds practical measures to address a wide range of challenges in Bristol, both local and city-wide.
Proposals include a scheme dubbed the “puddle police” which identifies problem drains across the city to reduce local flooding, tougher enforcement action on fly-tipping, and development of a 12 year plan to make Bristol carbon neutral by 2030.
The proposals would be paid for by cracking down on commercial landlords whose buildings do not meet the requirements on energy efficiency. The additional fines would then be used to fund improvements across the city and would further encourage commercial landlords to reduce the energy lost from their buildings.
Councillor Clive Stevens who developed the plans for reducing local flooding said:
"I hope Labour don't get wet feet over voting for this amendment. We all know the spots that are subject to local flooding and its often the same drains that end up blocked every year, whether from leaves, litter or local debris. My colleagues have nicknamed this initiative the "puddle police". It's not so much a police force, more of a puddle watch. Residents report those gullies and drains that always block and Bristol Waste Company will have some money to clear them out before they flood. Simple, but effective."
Explaining the plans for tougher action on fly-tipping Councillor Stevens continued:
"The Green amendment will enable tougher action on fly-tipping which has become the scourge of some areas in Bristol. With the money raised, the Council will be able to afford extra staff to check vehicle movement around the time fly-tipping occurred. This will then mean that more penalty notices can be issued to those dumping waste on our streets and neighbourhoods."
The amendment also provides funding to help Bristol meet its commitment to become carbon neutral by 2030, including developing the city’s 12 year action plan and funding for small community energy generation and energy efficiency schemes. Councillor Eleanor Combley, who is part of the cross-party group working to implement Bristol carbon neutral 2030 said:
“Councillors from all parties supported our call to declare a climate emergency and set the ambitious target of a Carbon Neutral Bristol by 2030. Saying the words is one thing, but the proposals in this amendment will help us start putting that commitment into action, so I hope that councillors from all parties will put money where their mouth is and support it.”
Councillor Jerome Thomas, who developed the funding plan for the schemes concluded saying:
“This is a win-win-win for Bristol. It brings in money from commercial landlords who are breaking energy efficiency regulations and uses it to fund climate change adaptation, stop fly-tipping and tackle local flooding. The council is already working with residential landlords to improve their energy efficiency and now it’s time for commercial landlords to up their game. Heating buildings generates 17% of total UK carbon emissions, so we must insulate our draughty office and commercial buildings to as soon as possible if we are to reduce Bristol’s carbon footprint. If other parties support this amendment we can reduce the city’s carbon emissions, make Bristol’s offices more affordable to heat, and raise money to further the city’s ambition to become carbon neutral all at the same time.”
Image: David Morris: https://www.flickr.com/photos/46124960@N00/199058346/in/photostream/
The full budget amendment can be found on p12 here: https://democracy.bristol.gov.uk/documents/b11659/Budget%20Amendments%20Received%2026th-Feb-2019%2014.00%20Full%20Council.pdf?T=9
Minimum Energy Efficiency Standard
The Minimum Energy Efficiency Standard (MEES) Regulations are designed to promote more energy efficient buildings. The regulations allow councils to impose financial penalties on residential and commercial landlords when they rent out buildings which have an Energy Performance Rating of below E. By encouraging landlords to make their buildings more energy efficient this reduces carbon emissions and makes homes and commercial properties more affordable to heat. Bristol city council is already working with residential landlords to improve their properties though the MEES regulations, but has yet to do so with commercial landlords. By working with the new powers that they have to impose financial penalties, the Council get a win-win-win result. It can reduce the city’s carbon emissions, make homes and offices more affordable to heat, and raise money to further the city’s ambition to become carbon neutral.”
The Minimum Energy Efficiency Standard (MEES) was introduced in March 2015 by the Energy Efficiency (Private Rented Property)(England and Wales) Regulations 2015. This means that landlords of residential and commercial properties within the scope of the MEES Regulations (nearly all privately rented property) must not renew existing tenancies or grant new tenancies in the building has less than the minimum energy efficiency performance certificate (EPC) of E unless the landlord registers an exemption, for which they must have a valid reason. Only a small proportion of properties would be entitled to an exemption. The MEES Regulations allow Bristol City Council and other councils to impose quite significant penalties where the regulations are not being adhered to. This will help BCC ensure that landlords improve the city’s buildings so that they become more energy efficient, helping the city move towards its goal of carbon neutrality by 2030 and at the same time will also raise revenue for the city.
Residential MEES and Bristol City Council
The landlord licensing team has been progressing the application of the MEES Regulations and has been given Government funding for a pilot project to do this. Bristol is seen as being quite far advanced among local authorities in its application of the MEES Regulations. The landlord licensing team believe that there are between 800 and 1500 properties that could be affected by the application of the regulations and it is preparing to engage with the owners of these properties in the next few months.
Commercial properties MEES
The Government estimates that 18% of commercial property lettings fall below an EPC rating of E (source Burges Salmon guide to MEES Regulations). The MEES Regulations allow local authorities to impose penalties up to 20% of the value of the property’s rateable value on commercial landlords with a maximum fine per property of up to £150,000 per property. While in theory this is likely to raise millions of pounds of revenue for the Council, our budget we are only assuming £150,000 net income in the first year of operation and £500,000 per year thereafter. We should either recruit a project manager (under the supervision of our commercialisation team) to introduce the same financial penalties system that our landlord licensing team have already undertaken in the residential sector OR we should work with a private sector partner who takes a percentage cut of the fees generated from financial penalties. Either approach is likely to result in income generation from year 1.