UK business briefs: Westminster recycling, Renewables recommendation, Payroll giving, National Grid sale, Waste toolkit, Eco-warehouse, Welsh flood defenses

As part of the on-going commitment to recycling, Westminster City Council, in partnership with Onyx, has embarked on a three-month campaign to deliver up to an extra 40,000 recycling baskets to local residents. The initiative, which began on Monday 17 January, is part of a drive to make recycling for residents as accessible as possible and to help reduce the amount of recycling waste placed in the rubbish bin. A participation survey carried out in December 2004 helped identify properties, which are not currently participating in the doorstep scheme. An existing recycling crew will be delivering a recycling basket to each of those households, while an extra crew will be introduced to a new round to deal with the anticipated increase in demand.

BWEA, the UK’s leading renewable energy association, warmly welcomes today’s publication of the recommendation by the International Climate Change Task Force for G8 countries to generate 25% of their electricity needs from renewables by 2025. The task force’s report, ‘Meeting the Climate Challenge’, comes as the UK takes over presidency of the G8, with the Prime Minister committing to put climate change at the top of the agenda. Marcus Rand, Chief Executive of BWEA, said: “The UK wind industry strongly supports this recommendation for an eight-fold expansion in the use of renewables. A strong renewables target for G8 nations backed up with positive policies is essential to send the long term business signals to industry to encourage them to make the investments in the solutions to climate change. Wind energy in the UK and throughout the G8 has a leading role to play in delivering affordable carbon-free power for the foreseeable future.” The report comes on the heels of a record year of progress for the UK wind industry, with new capacity built in 2004 almost triple that of the previous year and a further 60% expansion predicted in 2005.

Launched this week, a new UK-wide initiative – the Payroll Giving Grants programme – is rewarding any employer, with fewer than 500 staff, for setting up a Payroll Giving scheme with a cash incentive of up to £500. By setting up Payroll Giving, employers enable employees to give to charity straight from their gross salary and to get immediate tax relief of up to 40% of each donation. As an additional incentive, the new grants programme will match the first £10 donated by each employee, every month, for a period of six months. The Payroll Giving Grants programme, a Home Office-funded initiative, is administered and promoted by the Institute of Fundraising and Business in the Community. Fiona Mactaggart, Home Office Minister, speaking today, said: “By donating money straight from their salary, employees can make a regular commitment to their favourite good cause. Payroll Giving makes it easy for people to give money tax-efficiently because donations are made before tax is deducted from an employee’s salary. Charities also benefit from regular, reliable funding and it gives businesses the chance to connect with their local community.”

The Government has decided to consent to the sale by National Grid Transco (NGT) of four of its eight gas distribution networks, paving the way for consumer savings worth an estimated 225 million NPV over 18 years from 2005. This follows the Authority’s decision to approve the sales under the same statutory duties. The decision by Trade and Industry Secretary Patricia Hewitt comes almost two years after NGT announced its intention to sell between one and four of its Distribution Networks. Since this announcement, Ofgem has been leading a major exercise to determine the potential benefits of such a sale. The DTI has been working closely with Ofgem and the Health and Safety Executive has been working on the safety aspects. The sale would bring the structure of the gas industry more in line with the electricity sector, allowing Ofgem to perform “comparative regulation” when comparing the performance of different Distribution Networks in setting price controls. Ofgem estimates that this increased competition is likely to generate some £225 million worth of net savings for consumers over 18 years.

A new toolkit to guide local authorities through procurement plans and waste contracts has been developed and launched today by Defra. The procurement plan provides a link between a local authority’s Municipal Waste Management Strategy and the contract toolkit, to assist in implementing the authority’s strategy. The toolkit will guide the local authority through this process, helping to highlight risks, identify issues and signpost essential information from Government and from professional institutions to help draft contracts. The software has already been trialled among a number of local authorities. The free Waste Procurement Toolkit software is available to download from under Support Products/Toolkits – Procurement.

Eco-efficient EcoTemplate warehouse G Park Bedford, built by Gazeley, has now been completed. The 445,035 sq ft (41,344 sq m) distribution facility incorporates 11 environmentally beneficial initiatives suggested in Gazeley’s two-year, €1 million (£660,000) EcoTemplate research. The 11 key initiatives at Bedford include solar thermal hot water heating; a wind turbine to generate power for the offices; 15% rooflights reducing the need for electric lighting and pervious paving, minimising the need for man made underground drainage systems. Overall, the facility will cut water usage by 45%, harvest 400,000 litres of rainwater per annum (equivalent to 25 million cups of tea), reduce CO2 emissions and derive 6% of the energy requirement from natural resources. Gazeley has started delivering environmental improvements in its UK Magna Park developments and is committed to implementing as many EcoTemplate initiatives as possible on all new developments. In recognition of the positive changes Gazeley is making, the Government recently awarded funding for part of the photovoltaic array at Bedford via the Energy Savings Trust (part of the DTI).

And finally, a layer of bureaucracy which could slow down the building of flood defences is being removed by the Welsh Assembly Government. Minister for Environment, Planning and Countryside, Carwyn Jones, said this is just one example of how the Assembly is using powers available to it to help reduce the risk of flooding. Six local flood defence committees are being removed, leaving single tier Flood defence committees in Wales. Regulations passed by the Assembly today bring this change a step closer. Carwyn Jones said: “Recent floods highlight the need for those responsible for flood defences to work in the most efficient way possible. The job of identifying areas at risk and ways of protecting them is of huge importance and I want it done well.”

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