Conservative Council Borrowed £1 Billion From Taxpayers To Bet On British Sunshine

Posted: May 23, 2020 by oldbrew in Accountability, Energy, government
Tags: ,

Borrowed from ratepayers, strictly speaking. But there seems to be something rotten here anyway. Are solar farms an ‘investment’ of public money? Even if they are, they have an unfortunate reputation for going bust in some cases.
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A major investigation has revealed how Thurrock Council got into more than £1billion in debt, borrowing the money from around 150 local authorities across the UK, reports The Global Warming Policy Forum (GWPF).

But instead of funding council services, the council gambled at least £604million in solar farms located outside of the borough.

Among Thurrock’s rundown council estates and neglected public parks, typical of many towns after a decade of austerity, there is nothing to suggest that over the past three years the local council has borrowed and then invested hundreds of millions of pounds of other councils’ money.

Under the direction of a senior council officer Thurrock borrowed from about 150 local authorities across the UK with little public scrutiny. These loans were not for direct funding of council services, or investing in infrastructure – instead they financed solar farms more than a hundred miles away.

Sean Clark, Thurrock’s director of finance, oversaw the investment of £604m in the solar industry, investments he says were prompted entirely by intermediaries approaching him with money-making opportunities.

In an extraordinary interview with The Bureau, Clark wondered whether he had gone too far. At last count Thurrock owed other councils an unprecedented £1bn.

What neither Clark nor the council will disclose is which local authorities he borrowed from or what companies he invested in. To do so, they say, would harm Thurrock’s commercial interests and put off potential lenders.

However, an investigation by The Bureau has discovered the council has poured at least £74m, and possibly hundreds of millions more, into a single company, Rockfire Capital, whose financial model raises serious questions over how likely it is that the public money would be recovered in full if the business failed.

This revelation comes at a time when many councils’ finances have been hit hard by the coronavirus crisis.

Continued here.

  1. ichor0 says:

    Maybe I have the jurisdiction wrong but infuriating 2016 Thurrock council meeting minutes

    Click to access Thurrock%20Borough%20Council%20-%20Council%20Minutes%2030th%20November%202016.pdf

    It’s long. At one point Councillor Duffin stood up and proclaimed “7.4 per cent of households in Thurrock were affected by fuel poverty, 82 per cent were concerned about paying fuel bills over the winter”. then, I swear, the minutes say “With this being such a serious issue, Councillor Duffin called on Cabinet to act on this if the Motion was agreed and would take any profits made [from the solar investments] and put this to deal with the fuel poverty in Thurrock.”

    Apparently after hearing how their constituents bills were going up because of [Green] actions by the federal govt, they thought, ‘let’s invest in [Green] solar’.

    Isn’t it a LLC, completely capable of going bankrupt, and isn’t the UK is both cloudy and above the 50th parallel (with an ERoEI <1)?

    Now in 2020 the mayor who I think was also a council member, just quit to – you guessed it – take up a health post
    Nothing to do with covid19, nah 😉

  2. Gamecock says:

    Blame coronavirus that they couldn’t play the Blackpool slots.

  3. It is time for all bids for public money, to be published in full. Perhaps those shortlisted from which the winning bid is selected.
    There can be no commercial secrets when public money is to be spent. Put decent amounts of sunlight on this dirty area of public life.
    Councillors in the uk can be ‘surcharged’ if found to have wantonly wasted large amounts of public cash.

  4. Graeme No.3 says:

    “Sean Clark, Thurrock’s director of finance, oversaw the investment of £604m in the solar industry, investments he says were prompted entirely by intermediaries approaching him with money-making opportunities.”

    Sounds like a real dill. Certainly not someone you would want handling your finances.

    If he still wants money-making opportunities, I have land in northern Greenland or Antarctica which will be very valuable once the covering ice melts (as many ‘environmental’ entities claim is happening quickly). And if that doesn’t convince him he should ask the BBC or IPCC who will confirm this melting is accelerating.

  5. TinyCO2 says:

    Note that Warrington council are acting as drug dealer for councils like Thurrock. It borrowed its money to gamble on solar and many other dodgy deals, from the government itself. The auditors are now two years overdue to sign off on the council’s finances. Many of its investments are going south because of covid19. The councils have tied themselves into allowing mad building projects in a ‘you scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours’ system. If one council fails they’ll take others with them.

  6. saighdear says:

    Huh, what’s new about how Council(lor)s spend OUR money? – in the name of Job creation and Back handers to fellow members, Land is bought for FUTURE Development, we’re told: MORE of our money is spent on infrastructure: then the MAintenance of the Infrastructure and YEARS later, still few sites are developed…. and so the saga goes on – you all know the rest.

  7. edhoskins says:

    Pleas pass this to Thurrock Council

    More than half of the Name Plate value the UK electricity generation fleet now consists of Weather Dependent Renewables, Wind (Onshore and Offshore) and Solar.

    But the Productivity that those Weather Dependent Renewables achieved in 2019 was:
    Onshore Wind ~22.9%
    Offshore Wind ~31.7%
    Solar ~10.5%.
    Overall, UK Weather Dependent Renewables gave a combined productivity about 20.9% in 2019.

    With the installed overcapacity of Weather Dependent Renewables, it is hardly surprising that on occasions they produce unwanted power because they cannot be controlled to match demand. Nonetheless, on average to achieve 1 unit of power output one has to install about 5 units of Weather Dependent Renewables.

    Using generation cost data from US Energy Information Administration, when one combines the capital cost / Gigawatt installed with their true productivity factors the costs / Gigawatt installed becomes:
    Onshore Wind ~£4,800 million / Gigawatt
    Offshore Wind ~£11,500 million / Gigawatt
    Solar ~£10,500 million / Gigawatt

    These effective capital costs have to be compared with Conventional generation technologies:
    Nuclear ~£5,600 million / Gigawatt
    Gas-firing ~£900million/ Gigawatt

    Conventional generation technologies produce at ~90% productivity and can generally be controlled to match demand.

    Especially with Weather Dependent Renewables being paid a high price for their production and also being paid not to produce their excess power whenever overproduction occurs, how can this possibly be considered to be good business?

  8. ivan says:

    Time to follow the money. How fast has Sean Clark’s bank account grown? Either Clark is/was very gullible and easily scammed by the owner of Rockfire Capital, or he is getting something in return.

    In any case he should be banned from any council work and never allowed anything to do with finance ever again. He should also be be made responsible for paying back any losses of council money.

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