Local Authorities in breach of European energy regulations

Over a third of all Local Authorities across England and Wales have been found in breach of a European Energy Directive, designed to improve the energy efficiency of their public buildings, according to a recent Freedom of Information (Fol) request.

The Property and Energy Professionals Association (PEPA) issued a FoI request to all Authorities in England and Wales, asking them to confirm their compliance with the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive (EPBD), at the start of this year. The decision to issue the FoI request was taken after PEPA discovered that Government was failing to track how millions of pounds of tax payer’s money, allocated to ensuring Authorities complied with the Directive, was actually being spent. When asked directly if they comply with the European Directive, 58% of Authorities confirmed they do indeed comply, while 30% advised they were non-compliant and a further 12% did not answer the question.

Since 1 August 2007, Local Authorities have had an obligation to ensure they comply with the EPBD. The European Directive states that a Display Energy Certificate (DEC), which detail a building’s energy consumption, should be on display in all public buildings over 500sq m. The Government allocated £3.4m in the tax year 2008/9 and a further £1.9m each year since, supposedly to assist Local Authorities in covering these new duties, which in turn, are designed to help reduce the UK’s carbon emissions while reducing fuel bills for building occupants.

Stephen O’Hara, Chairman of the Property and Energy Professionals Association (PEPA), said: “What has become clear is that there is a total lack of understanding amongst non-compliant Authorities of the potential for DECs to save both energy and money. What’s more, by flouting the regulations they are actually costing their tax payers money.

“It is unbelievable that the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) sits on its hands in these times of austerity and watches Local Authorities fritter away money on high energy costs. It seems that the Secretary of State, Eric Pickles, does not understand why improving energy efficiency is so vital, not just to reduce the UK’s carbon emissions, but for the economy.”

O’Hara adds: “What’s more, it remains an absurdity that Local Authorities are responsible for policing their own compliance with the European Directive when it comes to DECs. If Trading Standards Officers were to raise a fixed penalty notice of £200 on their own Authority, the money would be deposited back into the account from where it came! As a result, where Local Authorities do not meet their own obligations under the EPBD regulations, absolutely nothing is done about it – this needs to change.”

PEPA now plans to undertake a detailed analysis of the results of the Fol exercise and will produce a report that highlights best practice amongst Local Authorities in the use of DECs, while identifying those Authorities which are wasting a golden opportunity to save tax payers money.

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