Staff in council-run offices and buildings in Birmingham are being urged to cut their fuel consumption to help the authority cope with the rising cost of energy.
The city’s deputy leader Councillor Paul Tilsley has called on council workers to employ the same energy-saving measures they would use in their own homes to prevent increased bills being passed on to council taxpayers.
The authority is struggling to cope in the face of a 145 per cent rise in the cost of gas and 110 per cent increase in the price of electricity over the last year.
As a result, city chiefs anticipate energy suppliers will be demanding payment of at least 50 per cent more when contracts come up to tender between now and September.
The greater expense has serious implications on the council’s ability to heat schools and other council buildings and supply electricity to its housing communal facilities.
The increased burden also has implications for electricity consumed by power street lights, traffic lights, advertising boards and CCTV.
Measures staff are being urged to look at include reducing the amount of time heat and lighting is provided.
Coun Tilsley (Lib Dem Yardley) said: “As a council we are large consumers of both electricity and gas. We have to do far more to manage the demand. We have to reduce consumption and send out the message that we have to conserve as much energy as we can.”
He told the city council cabinet that the authority had a particular problem with old buildings and temporary accommodation which were difficult to heat.
“They are not fit for purpose as far as energy consumption is concerned,” he said.
Birmingham City Council has committed to a substantial programme of energy conservation as part of its commitment to tackling climate change.
Coun Tilsley said the authority has already invested considerably in making energy savings but called on all its workers to take small steps to help it do more.
“It is really down to everyone to start thinking about how they use energy within the council and treat it as if they were living at home,” he said.
He added there was a “possibility” the authority’s increased fuel bill could be passed on to the public.
“There is a strong move within local government towards this,” he said.
“There have also been a number of local authorities calling for more support from the Government, given that many of their activities are statutory activities.
“We would prefer to change our behaviour collectively so we change our energy consumption. The benefit to everyone is we reduce our CO2 footprint.”
Last week the Local Government Association warned the rising cost of oil, petrol and diesel had increased the cost to councils of providing local services by £239 million in the last two years.
Its research found that in 2006/2007, councils spent £541 million on fuel costs to run vehicles such as their rubbish bin fleets, gritters and meals on wheels vans. During the current financial year between April and March 2009, it expects the cost to rise to £780 million to provide the same services - if prices stay the same.