Birmingham schools using Russian-linked gas to heat classrooms

5 Birmingham City Council run schools have sourced gas from Gazprom

Schools within Birmingham have sourced gas from a Russian energy company.

The city council is now seeking to trawl through all its major contracts for Russian-linked businesses.

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At a full council meeting at Birmingham city council on March 15, it emerged five local authority-run schools had sourced gas from Gazprom this financial year – at a total value of £51,000.

While the Labour-led local authority claims to have no direct contracts linked with Gazprom, questions have been raised related to scrutiny on gas deals between local councils and energy companies.

The Local Democracy Reporting Service contacted Birmingham City Council for a list of schools which had used Russian-linked gas to heat their school.

But they said they “could not provide” a list.

Classroom

Have other questions been raised about Birmingham City Council contracts with Russian firms?

In a written question, Cllr Mike Ward (Lib Dem, Sheldon) asked the council to set out what had been done to ensure the council has no contracts or investments with Russian linked businesses.

In a statement, Cllr Ian Ward, Leader of Birmingham City Council, said: “The council has undertaken an initial review of the council’s contracts and we have no direct contracts with companies from either Russia or Belarus.

“It is noted that with such an international supply chain that some of our suppliers may have sub contracts which stretch into commercial arrangements where there may be links.

“With this in mind we have conducted a direct survey with our contracted suppliers seeking more information on what, if any exposure, there is to Russian or Belarus contracts beyond our main suppliers.

“Through our investment partners we are currently actively reviewing our investment holdings, working with fund managers to assess our exposure and actions taken in  response to the developing events in Ukraine, together with the increasing sanctions  imposed on Russia.

“Fund investments in this area represent a small and reducing element of the fund portfolio with actions having already been taken to reduce exposure, including some exclusions.”

Leader Ward concluded the council has “no direct or indirect financial instruments” with Russian institutions.

Birmingham City Council House

Have other councils got contacts with Russian-linked energy firms?

Gazprom Energy, which trademarks itself as “one of the UK’s leading business energy suppliers”, has a parent company called Gazprom Marketing & Trading Retail Ltds – a subsidiary of Russian-state firm PAO Gazprom.

Councils use the part-state-owned firm’s gas to heat offices, schools and social housing.

According to analysis by data firm Tussell,  local authorities, who have a statutory duty to find the cheapest deal on behalf of the public, paid £29 million to Gazprom from 2016 to 2021.

The same data found the public sector spent an estimated £107 million on Gazprom deals between 2016 and 2021. NHS expenditure accounted for £77 million.

Councils up and down the country, including Blackburn with Darwen council, Telford & Wrekin council and Pendle borough council, have all switched supplies away from Gazprom.

Russian companies supply around 5 per cent of the UK’s gas, compared with almost 50 per cent for EU countries.

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