Plans to pedestrianise large parts of the historic centre of Bristol have been accelerated after the reduction in traffic caused by the lockdown. The city council plans to encourage cycling and walking by banning cars from Bristol Bridge, one of the main routes into the centre, and pedestrianising the Old City as well as widening pavements across the city. Marvin Rees, the mayor of Bristol, announced that in response to the pandemic and lockdown conditions, the city planned “to accelerate existing long-term transport ambitions”. The proposed changes include speeding up plans to pedestrianise the Old City by restricting vehicles during core business hours. Bristol Bridge is to be closed to traffic apart from public transport, taxis, bicycles, motorcycles and pedestrians. Bristol will also establish a series of bus priority routes to create more reliable journeys and dedicated walking and cycling areas.
Times 22nd May 2020 read more »
Thurrock has used loans from 150 other UK local authorities and pension schemes to fund its renewable energy assets. Thurrock has used loans from 150 other UK local authorities and pension schemes to fund its renewable energy assets. Over the past three years, an unelected council official has signed off loans from about 150 local authorities and council pension schemes. Sean Clark, Thurrock’s corporate director of finance, governance and property, then invested £702m of that cash in renewable energy deals. It is a substantial bet. Thurrock’s £1bn borrowing spree accounts for more than 10 per cent of all short-term inter-local authority borrowing in the UK. It dwarfs the council’s annual budget, which stood last year at just £220m, according to data from the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government. The Financial Times and TBIJ have sought to unravel the mystery of Thurrock’s giant green portfolio, of which no less than £604m has gone into solar investments. Council records show payments of at least £74m, and possibly substantially more, to Rockfire Capital Bonds Ltd, a firm whose sister company, Rockfire Capital, helped to raise £432m from councils that was used to buy 56 solar farms across the UK between late 2016 and the end of the following year. Other councils, such as the London boroughs of Havering, Newham and Bexley, also invested, but Thurrock appears to be the largest local authority investor. Thurrock’s bets on renewables reflect a wider strategy it describes as “unashamedly pro-revenue growth”. They help generate profits by exploiting the so-called “carry” between its low funding costs and the return on commercial investments; an approach that generated a net income overall of £19.2m in 2018/19, according to Mr Clark. The council’s green adventure started in 2016 when investment brokers retained by Warrington council were introduced to Rockfire.The Cheshire council had already invested £17m in five solar farm bonds promoted by Rockfire Capital and issued by RIF when its brokers, RP Martin, told Thurrock of the chance to invest in a large solar park near Swindon, 120 miles away. (Warrington has since redeemed its bonds to make a direct investment of £62m in two large solar parks in Yorkshire.)
FT 22nd May 2020 read more »