Headlines: July 7th, 2008

The impact of fuel price rises on local councils has been spelled out by the Local Government Association. It sways increases in the cost of oil and petrol mean the cost of providing services has risen by 239 million pounds in the past two years.

The LGA’s research shows that in the financial year 2006-7 the cost of fuel costs to run vehicles such as bin lorries, road gritters and vans for delivering meals on wheels was 541 million pounds. This year that is expected to rise to 780 million if prices stay at their current level.

The study shows that many authorities are adopting innovative measures to try to ease the pressure on budgets. Some have switched to bio-fuels or are using chip oil. In another move, Kent County Council has written to all local authorities to urge them to join forces and to bulk-buy fuel, on a not-for-profit basis, to keep down costs.

The LGA chairman, Sir Simon Milton, said local authorities provided more than 800 different services, many of which needed petrol or diesel and, given rising prices, councils would have to tighten their belts and come up with innovative ways to make money stretch further. Local authorities spent hundreds of millions of pounds ensuring that critical services never stopped. “With councils already having to tighten their belts, the rising energy costs will be a deeply worrying unwelcome headache. Local authorities will continue to drive up energy efficiency to drive down energy costs,” Sir Simon said.

People relied on councils to provide the critical services they needed and the ones they enjoyed and authorities could not simply stop providing them. Sir Simon continued, “Councils have been leading the way in adopting new environmentally friendly ways of saving energy but we need to continue to do more.This has the triple effect of reducing costs to council taxpayers, cutting the impact on the environment and encouraging local businesses to embrace these new technologies.”