BRISTOL: £3m vehicle fuel row
Image: Bristol City Council/YouTube
The Greens have criticised a Bristol City Council decision to spend £3million on petrol and diesel for its vehicles over the next five years.
Opposition councillors say keeping much of the fleet running on fossil fuels makes a mockery of the authority’s target for its own emissions to be carbon neutral by 2025.
The Labour cabinet agreed to put the council’s fuel contract out for re-tender, with deputy mayor Cllr Craig Cheney insisting it was necessary because not all of its vehicles had yet been moved onto greener technologies.
He told the meeting on Tuesday, October 5: “It’s an essential requirement of many of our responsibilities, but it’s also worth remembering that things from the harbourmasters’ fleet to our plant machinery to literal engine rooms of the council’s operations need this too.
“The amount of fuel we will need over the course of the contract will decrease as we transition as soon as we can in a feasible and affordable way.”
But Green Cllr Lily Fitzgibbon said: “I note that while this item is called ‘Transition to a low-carbon fleet’, the only new commitment here is to purchase £3million worth of fossil fuels.
“Out of the 89 new vehicles that are currently being purchased, 77 are ‘mild hybrid electric vehicles’ (MHEVs).
“Unlike a fully hybrid or fully electric vehicle, MHEVs do not have an electric-only mode of propulsion which means the council will need to use petrol or diesel to run these vehicles throughout their service lifetimes.
“Assuming that the reason they have been chosen over fully electric alternatives is cost, what is the difference in purchase costs, running costs and carbon emissions between MHEVs and fully electric vehicles?
“How is the intention to purchase new fossil-fuel dependent vehicles compatible with Bristol council’s target to have zero direct emissions in just four years’ time?”
Cllr Cheney replied: “Ultimately this contract is to purchase fuel for those vehicles that we already have.
“It just provided an update on some of those other details of things that happened elsewhere in cabinet decisions.
“But we’re happy to provide you with those breakdowns. I’m not going to read out a list of numbers in this meeting because it would not be the most exciting thing.
“I appreciate the question. We have brought previous cabinet papers and had these discussions already. This paper only brings the fuel contract.”
Bishopson & Ashley Down ward Cllr Fitzgibbon said afterwards: “I’m very disappointed that the cabinet lead ducked my question on this.
“It’s quite concerning that the council is planning to spend so much money on cars that will not be compatible with our long-term needs.
“Because they are fossil-fuel dependent these vehicles will require replacing before the end of their lifetime or Bristol council will miss its own internal emissions targets for 2025.
“Investing in electric vehicles now would be a long-term saving for the council and taxpayers and will be a step towards a cleaner Bristol.”
A report to cabinet said: “Bristol has set ambitious carbon reduction targets, including the ambition for Bristol City Council to be carbon neutral for direct emissions by 2025.
“As a key part of meeting these goals, fleet services are leading a fleet vehicle replacement programme introducing more electric vehicles and hybrids.
“While there has been significant progress to transition, we can expect to use a reduced amount of petrol and diesel as we upgrade our fleet.
“This is especially the case for specialised equipment and machinery which is not easily replaced, or still has a useful working life-span remaining before replacement can be viable.
“Accordingly, we must commit to a new bulk fuel supply contract to deliver these services, many of them statutory.”
Words: Adam Postans, Local Democracy Reporter
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