Council to set up private consultancy firm to exploit EU environmental directive

AVDC headquarters
AVDC headquarters

The district council will set up a company selling environmental consultancy services to businesses under plans to go before politicians.

Officers claim the firm, which will be owned entirely by taxpayers, will provide additional income for Aylesbury Vale District Council at a time of cutbacks to the government’s grant.

The authority has also formed a company to deliver superfast broadband in rural areas of the Vale.

However, Alex Pratt, chairman of Bucks Business First, argued that it is not fair for the public sector should not go into competition with private sector, which ultimately funds it.

In a report to the council’s cabinet, council officer Andy Barton said the ‘market for energy management has recently rocketed’ due to new legislation to comply with Article 8 of the European Commission’s Energy Efficency Directive.

It is now the law for all businesses with a turnover of more than £39m or employing more than 250 staff to comply with the Energy Savings Opportunities Scheme, which involves an audit every four years of energy and transport issues, or face a fine of up to £50,000.

There are 167 businesses in Bucks which will require ESOS certification.

Mr Barton said the council had ‘led from the front’ on reducing its own carbon footprint.

“In simple terms, we’ve been there and done it and it’s all publically viewable and open to be explored and interrogated.”

He added: “Market research suggests that most businesses are very wary of the claims of large suppliers. They are anxious to find independent and honest brokers with whom they can deal and from whom they can garner bespoke and relevant advice from specialists with no particular product or axe to grind...our niche is to fulfil this space.”

Mr Pratt, who runs the Serious Readers bespoke lights business in Bierton, said: “It just strikes me as really odd, you have got a council going into broadband, consultancies, bouncy castles. What are they going to do next – start manufacturing lights and competing with me?

“People forget that businesses pay for everything – they are the source of all taxation which pays for these things. So the council is taking our money and then using it to compete against us.”

The council’s plans will go before its cabinet on April 7. Should the company be successful, AVDC would look to expand into other areas for consultancy.