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City council urged to consider crowdfunding for green projects

PUBLISHED: 05:37 14 August 2020

Green Party councillor Jamie Osborn. Photo: Jamie Osborn

Green Party councillor Jamie Osborn. Photo: Jamie Osborn

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A Norfolk council has been urged to consider using crowdfunding to invest in renewable power and eco-friendly energy sources.

Green Party councillors have called on Norwich City Council to look into the idea of launching crowdfunded investments into solar power, battery storage and building energy efficient homes.

It comes after the council faced criticism for losing £6m of public cash when its own housing firm lost the money on a development.

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Green members have met with cabinet members and officers to discuss the plans, which could see residents able to invest as little as £5 into community schemes and receive a share of the income.

The schemes could function as an alternative to government-backed funds via the Public Works Loan Board (PWLB), which allows local authorities to borrow to fund projects such as renewable energy.

Green Party councillor Jamie Osborn said: “The combined effect of government cuts and now Covid-19 has pushed councils to the brink of bankruptcy, at the same time as they need to step up to the demands of the climate emergency and rising inequality.

“This proposal would raise local money for local projects like providing solar power while also providing jobs and a financial return to the local economy.

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“I hope the Labour cabinet will take on the idea instead of riskily investing in properties where the interest only goes out of the area.”

Councils including Swindon, West Berkshire and Warrington have used crowdfunded schemes, know as community municipal bonds, to fund solar farms.

The Green Party councillors say Swindon has raised more than £4.3m through investment-based crowdfunding for two solar farms that now power more than 1,200 homes and provide a 5-6pc return.

However, the cabinet member for resources, Paul Kendrick, has said while Norwich city council are “happy to engage”, the loan board remains the best source of funding for council projects.

“We’ve sat down and discussed it with them,” he said. “There are issues involved.

“They have some specific ideas in terms of solar power and battery storage. We can borrow money from the PWLB so it would have to be a specific proposal.

“Most corporate projects the city council employs, it’s still a lot cheaper to go with the PWLB.”

And Mr Kendrick added: “We’re happy to engage in a positive manner if they have proposals they would like to present.”

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