Doubts have arisen over ministers’ claims to have ‘doubled’ funding for electric vehicle chargepoints after the Government would not deny that it was recallocating unclaimed cash from a scheme that has previously experienced low take-up.
The Department for Transport (DfT) said councils will have access to an extra £2.5m this year under the On-Street Residential Chargepoint Scheme, which it said could pay for the installation of over 1,000 new chargepoints.
Transport secretary Grant Shapps said: ‘It’s vital that electric vehicle drivers feel confident about the availability of chargepoints near their homes. That’s why we are now doubling the funding available for local authorities to continue building the infrastructure we need to super-charge the zero emission revolution.’
A DfT spokesperson said the additional £2.5m represented a doubling of this year's funding but was unable to clarify whether this involved the reallocation of underspend from previous years.
It appears that the additional cash, which the DfT spokesperson said was ‘new money’, is actually less than the unspent allocation to date, which could be nearly £3m.
The scheme, which covers up to 75% of the cost of procuring and installing charge points, launched in 2016, with £1m available during 2016/17, a further £1.5m available during 2017/18.
By December 2017, it was announced that a further £4.5m would be up for grabs, comprising £2m during 2018/19 and £2.5m during 2019/20.
However, in January 2018, ministers had to write to councils arging take-up the scheme, after admitting that only five councils had come forward. Two had been awarded a total of £150,000, with three applications being assessed.
Cash from the scheme comes via the Government’s Office for Low Emission Vehicles and is administered via the Energy Saving Trust (EST). The EST told Transport Network that in 2017/2018, there was one application, which was awarded £40,725.
It is clear that ministers were aware of the low take-up of the scheme and the significant underspend – nearly the entire £2.5m allocation – when announcing the extra funding in 2017.
At that time, local authorities argued that they did not have the funds to provide the remaining 25% of installation costs.
However, it appears that the ministerial push was successful. According to the EST, 23 successful applications were awarded £1,554,775 in 2018/2019, although this still left £445,245 unallocated.
The EST said this was due to a few larger applications dropping out at the last minute for various reasons, including being unable to complete the works during the financial year, as required.
It also pointed out that the costs of schemes could go up or down between cash being awarded and actually passed to councils.
Nevertheless, it appears that the total underspend on the first three years of the scheme is approximately £2.5m to £3m, suggesting that the ‘new’ cash represents a recycling of unspent allocations.
Mike Thornton, the EST’s group director of operations, said: ‘An estimated 25% of cars are parked on street overnight and on-street chargepoints enable their owners to access convenient, cost-effective charging on their doorstep. The switch to ultra-low emission vehicles is essential to reduce emissions and improve air quality in line with Road to Zero’s ambitions.’