MP’s solar panels storm

MP Gordon Marsden at Blackpool cylinders manufacturer Gledhill where solar panels were installed on the roof in July 2015. Left to right Chris Gledhill (Production Manager), Houghton Gledhill (Founder and Company Chairman) Gordon Marsden MP and John Paul Baines (Commercial Manager).

MP Gordon Marsden at Blackpool cylinders manufacturer Gledhill where solar panels were installed on the roof in July 2015. Left to right Chris Gledhill (Production Manager), Houghton Gledhill (Founder and Company Chairman) Gordon Marsden MP and John Paul Baines (Commercial Manager).

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A Blackpool MP and a school head have slammed plans which will see tax on solar panels go sky high.

Blackpool South MP Gordon Marsden has criticised the Government for undermining eco-friendly businesses and schools in Blackpool, following proposals for a rates tax hike on organisations that install solar panels.

The Blackpool South MP, who earlier this year launched his “Cleaner, Greener Blackpool” initiative in South Shore, said the Government’s plans to increase tax rates would “punish” local organisations, who were trying to do the right thing in generating their own clean energy for themselves and the local community.

The Government’s planned shake-up of business rates to take solar panels on roofs into account has sparked concern among businesses and state schools as it could see rates rocket six or eightfold. Private schools and academies would be exempt due to their charitable status.

Mr Marsden said: “The Government must rethink these harmful and misguided plans. I have seen the difference installing solar panels make to businesses such as Gledhill and schools such as St Nicholas, helping them to become more self-sufficient but also to give something back to the local community they serve.

“Solar energy is now a high growth industry and there is huge potential to make renewables the genuinely viable alternative for the Fylde coast – especially with the new Enterprise Zone on our doorstep.

“However if the Government presses ahead with these ill-thought out plans, it could stifle potential and deter small and medium sized businesses, schools and organisations at looking at solar panels.”

Andy Mellor, headteacher at St Nicholas CE Primary School, who Gordon met last year, said: “St Nicholas has responded positively to the Government’s request for schools to become more self-financing and as such installed solar panels on our roof some two years ago.

“This initiative was expensive but we felt that the benefits in terms of saving the taxpayer money in lower energy costs, feeding back energy into the national grid in a clean sustainable way and the benefit of teaching the children about clean energy, warranted the investment.

“If the Government decides to increase the tax on solar power, it will undermine our attempts and will act as an insurmountable barrier to schools, with much reduced budgets, ever being able to put solar panels on their roofs.

“This is in addition to the feed-in tariff dropping significantly. Schools may well ask – why bother?”

Both Gordon and Mr Mellor urged the Government to think again and instead encourage schools and businesses to invest in solar power.

The new tax rates will be published by a government agency at the end of this month and will come into force on April 1 next year.

Paul Barwell, chief executive of the Solar Trade Association, said the problem may not be deliberate but due to the methodology of working out tax, but urged ministers to act. He said: “This is a huge increase in the running costs of a rooftop solar installation.

“We don’t think the hike is intentional. It is rather an accidental by-product of the established business rates system and how it applies to solar PV.”

A government spokesman said: “We will look closely at the impacts of the forthcoming valuation, and consult on how to put the right support in place for businesses to adjust to any changes.”