Across the country, schools which have installed panels in a bid to reduce bills and tackle climate change could face a total of £1.8 million in bills if plans to change business rates go ahead at the end of March. A total of 29 schools in Oxfordshire could soon face business rate bills totalling £45,254 under a tax hike for properties with solar panels, research by the Green Party has found.
Hazel Dawe comments that, “In Oxfordshire, 29 schools have installed solar panels with the capacity to produce 776 kW of solar power. Together, these schools will face a total of £45,254 in bills if the Valuation Office Agency goes ahead with plans to remove the exemption for small non-domestic installations. Oxfordshire was one of 74 education authorities across England and Wales which responded to FOI requests by Jenny Jones, Green Party member of the House of Lords. These 74 authorities were responsible for 821 schools with almost 14,000 kW of solar power capacity installed. Scaled up to all 174 education authorities across England and Wales, this makes a total business rates bill of about £1.8 million per year.
“Punishing schools for installing solar panels is completely ridiculous. These schools have taken positive steps to tackle climate change, cut their energy costs and give their pupils something to be proud of all of which will be undermined if these changes to business rates go ahead. Head teachers in Oxfordshire are already struggling to balance their books in the face of Government cuts. If these changes go ahead installing new solar panels will be unaffordable for many - an extremely disappointing step backwards.”
This is in the context of schools currently considering shorter school days or weeks due to financial and staffing pressures, with ever more school subjects are in serious decline.
1. The Valuation Office Agency proposes to start charging rates to small installations in the next financial year. Rates to be charged to non-domestic installations e.g. on schools are expected to be between £55-61.60 per kW: http://www.solar-trade.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2016/08/Stakeholder-briefing-business-rates-rooftop-solar-v0.8.pdf We took an average of that cost and multiplied it by the reported capacity from the FOI requests, to arrive at a likely bill of around £0.8m for those councils that responded. If you scale that up to all councils, assuming a similar install rate, you arrive at £1.8m for England & Wales.
More information on reduced school days or teaching weeks: https://www.theguardian.com/education/2017/mar/10/schools-in-england-and-wales-consider-shorter-days?CMP=share_btn_fb
Schools axing courses: http://www.itv.com/news/2017-03-10/warning-over-schools-axing-courses-amid-funding-crisis/