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The 2014 budget we want to see

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Blue & Green Tomorrow has been writing about chancellor of the exchequer George Osborne’s budgets and economic statements since 2010. We detect a slight change of tone towards environmentalism, post-floods, in Osborne. His budget will demonstrate whether he’s really a shy green and a practical environmentalist, or whether it was all just spin.

We have been ‘in it together’ through austerity Britain, a reduction in the top rate of tax that had brought in revenue equal to the cuts in flood defence spending (£100m)*, and endless tax breaks for oil, gas and shale industries.

We’ve got used to being called the environmental Taliban, cultists, watermelons (green on the outside, red in the centre), theologically-minded, extremists and ‘epic wankers’ by Osborne and his allies.

Most recently we were told to cut the “green crap by no less a person than the prime minister, David Cameron, of hug-a-husky fame and leader of the least green government ever. A government that contains an environment secretary who denies the scientific consensus on manmade climate change, but conveniently accepts the scientific consensus of medicine when it comes to his detached retina, thus allowing him to escape the media during a national emergency over flooding.

So this budget is important both fiscally and in setting the direction of travel before the nation votes. It is the penultimate budget before the next general election in May 2015 and the final one before the local and European elections in May this year, and the Scottish independence referendum in September. We expect some targeted cuts and wheezes to shore up Tory and union support.

We would like to see the following tax neutral measures:

– Tax cut (£2 billion): a new green individual savings account (ISA) allowance to allow for tax-free investment in renewables, energy efficiency and cleantech projects

– Tax cut (£1 billion): an increase in the amount allowed to be raised for Seed Enterprise Investment Schemes/Enterprise Investment Schemes in renewables, energy efficiency and cleantech projects in the UK

– Tax cut (£2 billion): corporation tax to be cut further, with greater reductions for companies involved in sustainable enterprise

– Tax cut (£1 billion): creation of zero/low-rate corporation tax for businesses with under £5m turnover which are involved in sustainable enterprise

– Tax cut (£1 billion): creation of tax-free zones for areas of deprivation to encourage inward investment, only for those businesses locating three-quarters of their workforce in those areas

– Tax cut (£10 billion): continued rise in tax-free allowances in income tax for low-income families

– Tax cut (£5 billion): stamp duty zero-rated on affordable housing (up to £250,000) built on brownfield sites or developed above retail units

– Increased spending (£5 billion): greater investment in rail resilience and the network, including re-opening closed lines and accelerating all proposed development plans to take significantly greater numbers of passengers and freight off our roads. Independent analysis of benefit of east-west high speed link between Hull and Liverpool instead of HS2

– Increased spending (£8 billion): matched public sector investment for private sector investment in renewables, energy efficiency and cleantech

– Increased spending (£neg): an additional sum, added to the Wolfson award for delivering multiple “new Garden Cit(ies) which (are) visionary, economically viable, and popular

– Increased spending (£5 billion): a fund created to accelerate superfast broadband rollout for the most compelling and cost effective solution to reduce the need for moving lots of people around

– Tax rise (£20 billion): a new pollution added tax (PAT) for polluters that cost the taxpayer billions through the health effects of pollution and exacerbate resource shortages

– Tax rise (£5 billion): a windfall tax on large capital financial services to create a new fund for those studying higher courses in science, technology, engineering, mathematics and enterprise

– Tax rise (£15 billion): rather than compulsory purchase of used land, the introduction of a land value tax on brownfield sites and empty properties to offset revenue losses from tax cutting measures, encouraging the land’s development or releasing land banks

The above would create investment for renewables, resource efficiency and cleantech without subsidy, tackle the externalities of resource inefficient business and stimulate university activity around sustainability.

It would also tackle low pay without increasing benefits, and help solve our housing and transport issues, securing freight and passenger rail services and capacity with increasing frequency extreme weather. It would stimulate the entrepreneurial vigour and innovation of the UK.

Roll on March 19 to see none of the above and more of the same.

* We’re fairly confident our brilliant readership understands the impact of inflation on absolute spending

Further reading:

The budget speech we want to see

Myopic budget threatens UK’s long-term prosperity

A sustainable versus unsustainable recovery

Osborne’s omission heralds escalating emissions

Are capitalism and conservation incompatible?

Simon Leadbetter is the founder and publisher of Blue & Green Tomorrow. He has held senior roles at Northcliffe, The Daily Telegraph, Santander, Barclaycard, AXA, Prudential and Fidelity. In 2004, he founded a marketing agency that worked amongst others with The Guardian, Vodafone, E.On and Liverpool Victoria. He sold this agency in 2006 and as Chief Marketing Officer for two VC-backed start-ups launched the online platform Cleantech Intelligence (which underpinned the The Guardian’s Cleantech 100) and StrategyEye Cleantech. Most recently, he was Marketing Director of Emap, the UK’s largest B2B publisher, and the founder of Blue & Green Communications Limited.

Environment

How to Build An Eco-Friendly Home Pool

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eco-friendly pool for home owners
Licensed Image from Shutterstock - By alexandre zveiger

Swimming pools are undoubtedly one of the most luxurious features that any home can have. But environmentally-conscious homeowners who are interested in having a pool installed may feel that the potential issues surrounding wasted water, chemical use and energy utilized in heating the water makes having a home swimming pool difficult to justify.

But there is good news, because modern technologies are helping to make pools far less environmentally harmful than ever before. If you are interested in having a pool built but you want to make sure that it is as eco-friendly as possible, you can follow the advice below. From natural pools to solar panel heating systems, there are many steps that you can take.

Choose a natural pool to go chemical free

For those homeowners interested in an eco-friendly pool, the first thing to consider is a natural pool. Natural swimming pools utilise reed bed technology or moss-filtration to naturally filter out dirt from the water. These can be combined with eco-pumps to allow you to have a pool that is completely free from chemicals.

Not only are traditional pool chemicals potentially harmful to the skin, they also mean that you can contaminate the area around the pool if chemical-filled water leaks or is splashed around. This can be bad for your garden and the environment general.

It will be necessary to work with an expert pool builder to ensure that you have the expertise to get your natural pool installed properly. But the results with definitely be worth the effort and planning that you have to put in.

Avoid concrete if possible

The vast majority of home pools are built using concrete but this is far from ideal in terms of an eco-friendly pool for a large number of reasons. Concrete pools are typically built and then lined to stop keep out any bacteria. This is theoretically fine, except that concrete is porous and the lining can be liable to erode or break which can allow bacteria to enter the pool.

It is much better to use a non-porous material such as fibreglass or carbon ceramic composite for your pool. Typically, these swimming pools are supplied in a one-piece shell rather than having to be built from scratch, ensuring a bacteria-free environment. These non-porous materials make it impossible for the water to become contaminated through bacteria seeping into the pool by osmosis.

The further problem that can arise from having a concrete pool is that once this bacteria begins to get into the pool it can be more difficult for a natural filtration system to be effective. This can lead to you having to resort to using chemicals to get the pool clean.

Add solar panels

It is surprising how many will go to extreme lengths to ensure that their pool is as eco-friendly as possible in terms of building and maintaining it but then fall down on something extremely obvious. No matter what steps you take with the rest of your pool, it won’t really be worth the hassle if you are going to be conventionally heating your pool up, using serious amounts of energy to do so.

Thankfully there are plenty of steps you can take to ensure that your pool is heated to a pleasant temperature while causing minimal damage to the environment. Firstly, gathering energy using solar panels has become a very popular way to reduce consumption of electricity as well as decreasing utility bills. Many businesses offer solar panels specifically for swimming pools.

Additionally, installing an energy efficient heat pump or boiler to work in conjunction with your solar panels can be hugely beneficial.

Cover it!

Finally, it is worth remembering that there are many benefits to investing in a pool cover. When you cover your pool you increase its heat retention which stops you from having to power a pump or boiler to keep it warm. This works in conjunction with the solar panels and eco-friendly heating system that you have already had installed.

Additionally, you cover helps to keep out dirt and other detritus that can enter the pool, bringing in bacteria. Anything that you can do to keep bacteria out will be helpful in terms of keeping it clean.

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Features

4 Ways To Get a Green House in 2018

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green house and homes
Featured Image From Shutterstock - By Photographee.eu

Demand for green houses is surging. In 2020, almost 20% of all homes on the market will be green.

If you would like to buy a green home, this is a great time to look into it. Prices are still pretty low and there are a lot more financing options available than there were right after the recession.

If you’re thinking about buying a house, now could be a very good time to make the move! A number of factors in the housing market right now mean that you might be able to afford your dream home. Although in many parts of the country house prices are still rising, if you do your research and plan wisely, there are lots of good schemes to help you get your foot on the property ladder, or trade up to the house you’ve always wanted.

Interest Rates and Stamp Duty

Although the Bank of England raised interest rates by 0.25% recently, they remain very low, which is good news if you’re thinking of taking out a mortgage. However, rates may not stay low and it’s predicted that there’ll be a further rate rise during 2018, so don’t wait too long. Another factor that’s going to help first time buyers in particular is the Chancellor’s decision to abolish stamp duty for first timers purchasing properties for under £300,000.

Different options

For many people looking to buy a green home, raising a deposit of between 5% and 20% may not be a realistic option, in which case there are a growing number of schemes to help. Increasingly popular are shared ownership schemes, through which the buyer pays a percentage of the full value of the property (typically between 25% and 75%) and the local council or a housing association pays the rest, and takes part ownership. This is suitable for buyers who may struggle to meet the up-front costs of buying outright. There will often be a service charge or management fees to pay in addition to the mortgage. The Government’s Help To Buy scheme is a good place to start looking if you’re interested in this option. This scheme is now available to people looking to buy green homes too.

ISA Options

If you’re still saving for a deposit, another scheme is the Help to Buy ISA. You can get a 25% boost to your savings on amounts up to £200 per month with this scheme. It’s only open to first time buyers and you can claim a maximum of £3000.

Other costs

Green home buyers are going to run into a number of other ancillary costs, most of which are common to other homebuyers.

When calculating how much you can afford, it’s vitally important to remember that buying a house comes with a whole host of other costs. Depending on the cost of the property that you’re buying, you may have to pay stamp duty of anywhere between 1% and 5%. There’ll be estate agents fee if you’re also selling a property, although there are a wide range of online estate agents operating such as Purple Bricks or Right Move that have lower fees than traditional high street companies. Conveyancing costs to a solicitor can add another £1000-£3000 and you may need to take out life insurance and hire a moving firm.

There are other initial costs such as, fixing parts of the home that aren’t upto your taste. Getting new furniture to fill up all the new-found space in your new home. If you are moving away from the city, you need to consider the cost of transportation as well, as it can take up quite a lot over time. Take your time, do your homework and shop around and soon you could be getting the keys to your perfect home.

I hope this article was useful for you to learn more about the basics that you need to be aware of before you start the process of buying your first home. If you have any doubts with regards to this, let us know through the comments and we will be glad to help you out. If you have any suggestions regarding how we can improve the article, let us know them through the comments as well for us to improve.

Do you have any other reservations against buying your first home? Do you see your house as an asset or a liability? Do you think it is important for everyone to get themselves a new home? Let us know through the comments.

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