The Mastersingers of Nuremberg

Last week’s Council Meeting was longer than some Wagner operas and councillors were visibly flagging by the end. So much so, that the final agenda item was almost forgotten.

Councillor White’s motion was entitled ‘Power to the People, Collective Energy Switching‘ and was on the theme of heating costs, savings from switching energy provider and fuel poverty.

It asked the council to

investigate the feasibility of a collective switching initiative, and to bring a report on this back to the relevant committee before the end of this year.

Councillor White promised to rush through his speech very quickly. He said that fuel poverty was on the increase in Reading with the numbers of affected households increasing from 5,600 to 7,264. This was worse than the national and south-east average. He suggested that around £200 a year could be saved by switching and lift some people out of fuel poverty.

A collective energy switching scheme would work by the council partnering with another organisation. This organisation would sign people up to switching and invite energy companies to make an offer which residents could then choose to accept. Councillor White said such scheme had been run in West Berkshire and in Cornwall.

Cornwall Together Project managed to engage the disengaged and reached the hard to reach with 28% of switchers living in fuel poverty.

Councillor Page indicated that the Labour party councillors were happy to accept the resolution, although he added that officers had already provided Councillor White with a lengthy briefing. He went on to say:

It stretched credulity to compare Cornwall and the demographics of Cornwall with Reading.

Councillor Hopper indicated that Conservative councillors would support the motion, adding that Councillor White had not really kept his speech brief.

Reading Borough Council Winter Watch 2015

Reading Borough Council Winter Watch 2015

And then Katesgrove councillor Matt Rodda, saying that he would be ‘really brief‘ to the exhausted exasperation of colleagues around him who were packing up their pencil cases and exercise books and waiting for the bell to ring for home time, spoke of Reading’s outstanding track record on such issues, including the Winter Watch scheme which had been promoted in Katesgrove. He went on to say :

We should also bear in mind that the thing that is hampering some of these environmental initiatives actually has been the cut to the feed-in tariff so I do hope that while our colleagues opposite can take back some other messages to their MPs, perhaps they can also remind them that due to the feed-in tariff we were able to put a lot of solar panels on roofs of council buildings; sadly that programme has stopped now.

But the last word went to Councillor Duveen (Lib Dem) who also supported the motion and was very, very brief.

The vote to accept the motion was unanimous.

[Exeunt omnes]

  1. Council meeting 18 October 2016
  2. Power to the People, Collective Energy Switching
  3. Reading Borough Council webcast 18 October 2016 [Item 15]
  4. West Berkshire Energy Switching Scheme
  5. Cornwall Together Project
  6. Keep warm and well this winter
  7. Solar Community Scheme – Strategic Environment, Transport and Planning Committee, 24 November 2015