This week Leeds City Council announced proposals to invest £3.8 million on the installation of solar panels on 1000 council homes. This would apparently reduce the city’s carbon footprint to a tune equivalent to taking 450 cars off the road, and will help those tenants selected reduce their bills. Yay! This is good stuff. I am all for energy efficiency, and during such austere times and critical council cuts, this seems pretty forward thinking.
However, as a council tenant I can’t help but question their motives. Are they box ticking? It’s a pretty expensive tick. When I viewed our 1950s flat I was told we’d have double glazing – also known to be a factor in improving energy efficiency and reducing bills – within a year or two. Two and a half years later we’ve still heard nothing. Plus council homes are fitted with token meters for pre-paid gas and electric, lumbering tenants with the most expensive energy tariffs, so I question whether altruism is a factor, despite them acknowledging that 11.6% of Leeds homes are in fuel poverty.
Just five years ago there were still areas of South Leeds where they had yet to roll out green bin collections. My neighbours and I pestered them with letters and emails pleading for a recycled waste collection down our street. It felt pretty backwards, and exposed the patchiness of Leeds’ efforts to implement their own environmental and waste strategies.
The front living room window of my neighbours’ flat was so rotten it let water in every time it rained, resulting in water damaged furniture that had to be tipped, and inevitably a lot of stress. And yet it took around a year of pleading with the council to have that window replaced. Why?
I would love to see Leeds City Council invest in greener energy, I really would. But sadly we live in ‘either/or’ times and funds are scarce, so I’d have to say that – at this point – I’d rather see that £3.8 million invested in basic improvements to the current housing stock and safer, warmer homes for all tenants, not just 1000 of us.