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Friday, December 13, 2013

'PORKIES' UPDATE: The Solar Farm Debate is now entwined with saving Childrens Centres Have we been here before?

Breaking News FRIDAY THE 13TH "Porkies ALERT!"

Memo to Cllr Marco Cereste and Peterborough Councillors from Cllr.  Michael Fletcher:-

Who's out in the cold?
At the last meeting of the Audit committee, members were told that the solar panels on the Freemans building had not yet produced any income whatsoever. Also, the council are contemplating taking legal action against the installing contractor.
Yesterday evening (12th Dec) at a meeting organised by BBC Radio Cambs and held at the Copeland Community Centre, Cllr: Cereste made a conflicting statement. He said, ‘the Freemans project was in fact earning money’.

Could we now be told exactly why, in the space of a few short weeks, conflicting statements have been made? Has the situation now changed or is one of those statements untruthful?

If one of those statements is proven to be untruthful, then we have a very serious situation that needs investigating.

If, either the Audit committee or the general public have been misled or in fact lied to, then action by the solicitor to the council is called for.

Cllr: Michael Fletcher.

Cllr David Seaton responds:
Thank you Cllr Fletcher

I can assure you that there have not been any conflicting statements made by officers and the Leader. At the time the Audit Committee met, the Council was still in negotiations with Ofgem on the level of tariff that the Council would receive from the Tesam site. 

The Audit Committee was told by myself (and I confirmed this at full council) that the solar panels on the roof were generating electricity but that no income had been received by the council from this. That is public information set out on the Council’s website.

At a recent meeting with Ofgem the tariff for the generation of electricity was finally agreed and therefore income from the solar panels will be paid by Ofgem to the Council in the near future and backdated to the installation of the panels. That was always going to be the case and so it is right to state that it is earning money.

I have spoken to the Director of Governance today and she has said that she is proposing to update the Audit Committee on this issue – and on a number of queries that have been raised by the Audit Committee – and will bring a public report to the Audit Committee when the matter has been finally settled. The Audit Committee, which I know you sit on and I attend as Cabinet Member for Resources, agreed this was the preferred approach.

I too have just listened with interest to the debate on the radio and was interested to hear the claim that we have been tardy in engaging with Empower. I would be happy to share with you the timetable of contacts if that would be of interest. As you know they have already reviewed our plans and confirmed they are financially robust.

The next phase we are working on is brown field, business and private housing opportunities (our social landlords are also working on social housing). However we do need to remember that unless the council owns an asset, any income (after that received by the asset owner) will go into a "community fund" and is not received directly by the council.

Kind regards



This expensively produced video has been knocking around You-Tube for a year or so. Only 91 hits, but worth viewing as Cllr Cereste points up the council is losing funding year on year. If he knew this at the time, why has he not clamped down on the excesses of his administration?  Also spot the [hopefully deliberate] financial mistake. 

Today Friday 13th the issue of the council run mega solar farms will be decided by Peterborough City Council.  By all accounts, the BBC local radio debate on the topic was good in production terms, but hasn't really taken us any further forward.  These are some of the highlights:

Energy Firm Chairman and Council Leader Cllr Marco Cereste claims the Solar Parks will cost £250 million of borrowed public funding to make a £30 million 'profit' over the £25 year period, but still refuses to disclose how the figures were arrived at, on grounds of 'commercial confidentiality'.
As Cllr Turnip spent £1,800:00 of Stanground East community leaders funding on 'a raised vegetable bed' (hence Cllr Turnip) at an infants school where he is a school governor; you can understand why Cllr Marco Cerestes figures appear to be doubtful possibly 'off the back of a cigarette packet' even.

Cllr Cereste claims that the council will be selling 'cheap' electricity to residents. This means the setting up of a marketing and opeerations division. (They tried it before, its called Vivacity, who will be 'tapping up' the City Council for extra funding within a year or so).  You can just imagine the big energy companies taking that on the chin. Suddenly special discount loyalty packages, will appear overnight to ensure they specifically keep their existing Peterborough customer base.  Simply the only customer for Peterborough sun power will be the National Grid....

The local MP Stewart Jackson (a former Lloyds Bank High street manager) ironically points up the lack of accountability, the financial risk, impending changes in subsidy regimes, and somewhat weakly "it might be against public policy." A bit rich in view of Lloyds Bank being saddled with huge fines, lack of accountability is in there somewhere...

Farmer John Harris who is set to lose his farm if the Solar Park scheme goes ahead says it will kill off 250 acres of prime Fenland food producing land and 500 acres of Grade A food producing farmland at Newborough. Its also underlined that farmland has to be worked on, nurtured for many years in order to produce maximum food yields - it won't happen overnight; he would be driven out of business.

Cllr Nick Thurlbourn, wonders if he is a member of the city council or running a power company? He like many others has "real risk concerns" over the lack of consultation.

A Cambridge County Councillor muscled in on the discussion and says they are to look at a 50 acre solar installation, but it will be on Grade 3 land, not food producing farmland.    BBC Cambridgshire is running a 30 minute roundup tonight Friday 13th (!!!!) at 7pm.

Solar and wind farms are at the top of a list of wacky long term ideas, financed on borrowed money, at a time when the City of Peterborough cannot even afford to keep a few run down - but vital to local neighbourhoods - childrens centres open and fully operational. 

They must close say the Conservatives to save pocket money - £1.4 million, (the cost of a small 2 bed flat in the Royal Borough Kensington and Chelsea - former council leader Sir Merrick Cockell - he was dumped as Council Leader last May, and will be dumped as Chairman by the Local Government Association [LGA] next May)  The hubs idea for childrens centres, was originally spawned by spotty researchers at the LGA.

The current Conservative administration tried to do a deal with Sir Merrick, also known as Pooter (you may recall) and the Conservatives have also taken buses off the roads and generally run down essential services, or stripping them to the bone.  Much of the green wheel cycleway hasn't been maintained for months - not alongside Park Farm anyway...  But still money can be found for grandiose city centre tart ups that few want.

This is delusional, and not at all helpful.  A city centre that is virtually empty after 4pm,  and a 'for disposal' sign hanging over the 70's style shopping centre, not packed to capacity with happy shoppers. A good indicator is the number of vacant parking places displayed on the Queensgate Centre illuminated signs, all stubbornly showing three figures.  Central Milton Keynes however is 'rammed to capacity' with shoppers, and its free parking too.....

The Solar Farm project will greatly financially impact on this City for the next 25 - 35 years, long after Marco has retired to his estate in sun blessed Italy; and Marco Junior is still in the UK running for the newly formed Federation of Middle England states ( Norfolk like Scotland having opted for Independence, and allied with Norway).  

The Norfolk Coastline and the once drained Fens will by then,  have all but sunk back under the sea - we don't use a constant pumping system, the way the Dutch do, ask the Environment Agency why not?  The beach will probably by then be just a 15 minute drive from the City of Peterborough.

You can either get angry, or apply some gallows humour, we'll stick to the latter. The Environment Agency these days is sadly little more than a reactive talking shop, and does little in the way of physical flood defence work. We'll happily debate this in detail, the rot set in during Elliott Morley the disgraced MPs tenure (convicted and jailed for expenses fiddles). 

All the figures (budgets) for the PCC Solar/Wind farms are shrouded in mystery as all the details are 'commercially confidential' says Cllr Cereste. TOTAL RUBBISH! Sadly Councillor Cereste knows this, as the financial returns have been widely leaked and easy enough to reverse engineer such projects.

Other more realistic financial projections are also available.  The eyewatering budgets spent by the council producing cost models so far, are simply out of date, and at best can only be working assumptions. Its no way to run a business or a small Unitary Local Authority.

Admittedly it takes a great man with vision, to step back and say "We got this one wrong, took our collective eye off the ball, generating energy isn't after all the big deal, saving it, is now the way foward..

What isn't commercially sensitive is the fact that by the next General Election May 2015, the electricity generated by the solar/ wind farm will not be as highly profitable as Cllr Cereste and the expensively hired project planners once suggested, as Prime Minister David Cameron (already falling out with his LibDem coalition partners), in order to try and win the next General Election, is on record as "gettting rid of all this QUOTE "Green Crap."

Environmental hobby horses are being dumped, no, more correctly, some taken into general taxation. The higher rates paid to land based Solar Farm producers ARE however being slashed. Windfarms out at sea, ie offshore, will in future attract the most subsidies and tax advantages. Land based installations will not. How clear can we make this? Cllr Cereste is chairman of a solar energy company, Lark Energy Limited, he must know this?  Mind you the dope loving Rev. Flowers was until recently Chairman of the Co-Op Bank....

The council might also like to consider that fracking is also back on the agenda and set to cover a much wider area of the UK, including our region, according to documents released earlier last week, and now has to be considered as a serious energy alternative, to solar and wind.

Cpuncillors should also ask: Why invest now in this already dated solar technology, by taking on additional lomg term debt for this City when a few years down the line, the technology in any case will be much cheaper and no doubt not so intrusive ie window glass developed by Pilkington Glass is already being used in place of unsightly roof solar panel arrays.

The PBROTRIB is also very unhappy that Cllr Marco Cereste repeatedly applies the whip to his conservative councillors, they are 'hog tied' not allowed a free vote at the end of the debate. If he did allow a few free votes in council, we might have attracted 400 new high technology firms to this city as Milton Keynes has done during the last 12 months, and not just a few downmarket retailers, chain food operations and pop up shops. There has to be a better way.

Those wishing to read PBROTRIB back posts on the solar farm can use this link:

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