Council Votes To Split Electricity Generation Money

New sports hall under construction

The Director of Children’s Services has accused the school of acting like “an electricity generating substation” rather than an educational establishment.

The outburst from Penny Penn Howard came during an impassioned debate at Tuesday’s Full Council Meeting where members decided to keep half of the money generated from the solar panel feed in tariffs on the new sports hall to itself.

The school had wanted all of the income.

Headteacher Bryce Wilby feels the solar power cash should fund the school, claiming the panels were originally intended to go on the new school building.

He says the sports hall site’s location will generate less income from the PV cells and he was only informed about the changed siting at the 11th hour.

Bryce says instead of the pupils benefitting from over £11,000 of savings and income, they will now only get in the region of £3,500.

He says this is clearly not an “even” partnership and makes a mockery of the 50:50 split of income proposed by the Council.

The split refers only to the feed in tariff and not to the export tariff and savings from the free, generated electricity that will all go to the Council now.

The Diocese of Truro had written to Councillors urging them to support the school, which is a church school. They say the money will be of direct benefit to the children.

Hastily Written Reports

There’s been a flurry of emails and hastily written reports from both sides backing their respective arguments.

But some Councillors were concerned that detailed information wasn’t available in advance of having to make a decision – the report was only given to them at the start of the Full Council meeting on Tuesday.

Councillor Roy Duncan was concerned the matter was being polarised, with the “school and children on one side and the Authority on the other.”

He said members were being asked to make decisions without full representation of the facts from both sides.

Chairman Mike Hicks apologised for the late report but said the Council had been forced down this route. He said none of it has anything to do with the education of the kids but is “all about the personality of one person.”

Director of Children’s Services, Penny Penn Howard said there was no desire to have this division and she’s happy to meet with the School Board as often as needed. She said there were “genuine misunderstandings” on both sides.

But she also said using language like “the children will be angry over this” is not a viable argument and the adults involved in the decision should show proper leadership.

Penny said that at no time during the project did the school offer any of their own money, which she says is available in their budget. But she says they’ve now used that money to pay for their own PV panels, which have just been installed.

Councillor Christine Savill also backed a 50:50 split in revenues saying that, even though the majority of the money for the build had come from Central Government, the Council had supported the school project to the tune of £100,000 with grants and borrowing.


Council Needs To Think “More Corporately”

Barry Archer of the School Project Board presented a detailed breakdown of the figures and the decision-making process to members.

He said solar panels were never part of the original school plan and said the Council had to think “more corporately” by looking at the implications on revenue and ongoing costings.

Barry added that, as the school will be charged for use of the sports hall, they’ll benefit from the money generated by the PV panels anyway, which will lower costs.

Headteacher of the Five Islands School, Bryce Wilby

Bryce says he will now bring the matter back to the school Governing Body and the Church Diocese Board of Education at their next meeting.

He says they may decide not to get caught up in any further action and to “try and make the best of the situation” they now find themselves in or they may wish to take further action or urge others to do so.

Bryce says he now intends to press on with running the school rather than publically “arguing” with the Council. He says he will use the now even more limited resources he has in the best way possible to improve education for all pupils.

But he says he’d appreciate the support of the community.

Bryce is urging parents, as voting members of the community, to question their Councillors closely about why they’re supporting this move to take money from their child’s education.