14 March 2017
Schools in Wales could soon face business rate bills totaling more than £200,000 a year under a tax hike for properties with solar panels, research by the Green Party has found.
Across the country, schools which have installed panels in a bid to reduce bills and tackle climate change could face a total of £217, 040 in bills if plans to change business rates go ahead at the end of March.
16 Welsh schools have installed solar panels with the capacity to produce 3722 kW of solar power. Together, these schools will face a total of £217,040 in bills if the Valuation Office Agency goes ahead with plans to remove the exemption for small non-domestic installations. 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.
Pippa Bartolotti, Deputy leader of Wales Green Party said :” Welsh schools have proudly taken 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.
“Punishing schools for installing solar panels is completely ridiculous. Head teachers everywhere are 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 for education and the climate.”
“Austerity has not produced a level playing field. We have tax breaks for the rich, punishment for the self-employed and now extra cost for state funded schools trying to do the right thing. It is typically perverse of this Tory government to exempt independent fee-paying schools from the solar tax.”
Jenny Jones, the Green Party’s member of the House of Lords, said: "It's utterly absurd to penalise schools for investing in solar panels. Schools obviously face bigger financial challenges than this, but the business rate charges will stop any plans for more solar panels. Schools I have visited see them as a triple investment - in their energy costs, their pupils' education, and their future.
"My research shows there is huge scope for schools to install more solar panels. While some schools have installed panels on most of their buildings, many currently have few or none at all. The Government should ditch these plans to charge rates on small solar installations and support more schools to join the clean energy revolution."