In charge?

Many councils have debated the issue of climate change and are putting in place plans to build on previous achievements to tackle this urgent issue.

Transport is the second biggest sector for carbon emissions and we need to seriously consider all possible actions we can take to reduce its carbon impact.

Councils are also subject to legal requirements to improve air quality around their road network. Electrification could be a solution to both these problems, by reducing the environmental impact of cars.

‘The Road to Zero’ – the Government’s strategy for reducing emissions from road transport – has set an ambition that no new conventional petrol or diesel cars will be sold by 2040. Meeting this ambition is going to require a step change in the availability of electric vehicle charging infrastructure. Charge points will have to become as ubiquitous as petrol stations to fuel most vehicles. This is a challenge that will be on the minds of many policy-makers in local government over the coming decades.

The LGA is helping councils respond to this emerging policy agenda. Over the summer, we published our new electric vehicle charging guide for elected members. ‘Councils in charge: making the case for electric charging investment’ is a guide to understanding why a council might consider investing in this area and some of the practical concerns that need to be addressed.

“The electric vehicle charging landscape can be a daunting area for many councils and councillors

We do not anticipate that most councils either want, or need, to become the long-term default provider for electric vehicle charge points. For the transition to be successful, the commercial charge point market will have to strengthen. However, many councils are already showing that they have a role to play in catalysing this market and helping in its early stages.

The electric vehicle charging landscape can be a daunting area for many councils and councillors. There are many charge point providers out there, the technology involved can appear complex, and the potential role for councils is unclear.

It is also a non-statutory service and many councils, given current budgetary pressures, may find it challenging to invest in charging infrastructure. In my own council, we are currently consulting on a draft updated policy to require house builders to provide a minimum of one charge point per home where there is a requirement for parking spaces, making it even easier for people to own electric vehicles in Swindon.

Alongside our guide, we are also holding an event examining what role councils can play in building this network (see below for more details). The event will explore councils’ long- and short-term role, and independent experts, leading industry representatives and councils will describe what kind of infrastructure is needed – and what policies are needed to support the transition. It’s aimed at all councils, from small rural district councils to major cities.

This is an exciting and emerging area for councils. The LGA intends to lead the debate nationally on behalf of our members, to ensure that we can capture all the environmental benefits of electrification as quickly as possible, in a way that is affordable and financially sustainable.

You can download the LGA’s report on electric charging, at www.local.gov.uk/councils-charge-making-case-electric-charging-investment. ‘In charge? Councils’ role in electric vehicle charging’ takes place on 24 March in London. To find out more and to book your place, visit www.local.gov.uk/events.

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