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Suffolk County Council agrees £2.6m funding for electric vehicle charging sites across its estate

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A £2.6 million investment in electric vehicle charging sites has been agreed by Suffolk County Council ahead of its switch to an electric vehicle fleet next year.

The authority, which has trialled nine electric vehicles this year, is set to switch its lease on diesel cars and vans to an all-electric fleet of dozens of vehicles when the current contract ends in mid-2023.

Ahead of the change, the authority needs to create a host of EV charging points across its estate, with the authority’s Conservative administration agreeing a £2.6m investment at its cabinet meeting on Tuesday.

Electric vehicle being charged. Picture: PA
Electric vehicle being charged. Picture: PA

That includes £2.1m for its Suffolk Highways bases in Rougham, Halesworth and Phoenix House in Ipswich; £165,000 for fast chargers across the pool fleet of cars; and £285,000 for Concertus’ fees to procure and supervise the work.

Cllr Paul West, Conservative cabinet member for operational highways, said: “This will assist the council in achieving its net zero carbon emissions policy by 2030, and to support the outcomes of the council’s climate emergency policy development panel as previously approved by cabinet.

“Work is required to install the charging infrastructure in this financial year so it’s operational for delivery of the new fleet of lease vehicles in around 18 months’ time.

Councillor Andrew Stringer
Councillor Andrew Stringer

“The current leased diesel fleet of 50 highways vehicles and 43 pool vehicles expires in mid-2023, and a new contract will have around 12-18 months lead in.

“The highways service has already been trialling nine electric vehicles to identify the constraints and the working practices just to get a feel of how those vehicles work.”

Cllr West said that £400,000 had already been earmarked for Ipswich East, Lowestoft and Bury St Edmunds fire stations, and a plan is in place to replace 14 officer response cars and 6 non-operational service vehicles in the fire service with electric vehicles in 2022/23 as part of the rolling fleet replacement programme.

Around 200 tonnes of CO2 will be saved per year as a result of the change, the authority said.

Cllr Andrew Stringer, leader of the opposition Green, Liberal Democrat and Independent group, said: “It’s vital we get this infrastructure in place, not only to save ourselves quite a lot of money as an authority in fuel costs but also to help achieve our net zero carbon ambitions.

“One slight niggle I have with it is how we have chosen Concertus [the council’s wholly owned company] to oversee this for us when there has been no competitive tendering process and there are specialists consultants out there that just deliver electric vehicle charging.

“I am just slightly concerned we are not choosing a market leader or someone who has got skin in the game to get value for money out of this.”