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£2.7bn council pension fund aims to cut its carbon footprint to zero

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Swansea Council’s award-winning pension fund has cut its carbon footprint by almost 60% and aims to go all the way to net carbon zero in the coming years.

The £2.7bn fund looks after the retirement funds of 47,000 members has already taken major steps to going net carbon zero by cutting the amount of cash invested in oil companies and other organisations with similarly-high carbon footprints.

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And its main committee this week agreed that the fund would go net carbon zero by 2037, 13 years ahead of the UK as a whole.

Since 2017, the pension fund has managed to cut its carbon footprint by 58% thanks to a mix of disinvestment in carbon-rich businesses and investment in green and environment-friendly initiatives.

Now it has set out a plan to materially increase the proportion of investments that have a positive focus on the climate.

Currently just 7% of the fund’s investments has direct ties to fossil fuels and that will be cut to nil before 2037.

Clive Lloyd, chair of the Swansea Pension Fund committee, said: “The fund is delivering for its 47,000 members, it is delivering for the future of the planet.

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“We were the first local government pension scheme in Wales – and among only a small number in the world – to commission a review of our equity investment portfolio to find out the exact extent of our carbon and fossil fuel related investments.

“Since then we have moved £0.5bn of assets into low carbon index tracking funds which has reduced further what was already a low level of investments in carbon-related industries.” 

The Swansea fund – which Swansea Council manages for Swansea, Neath Port Talbot as well as a number of other employers in the area – has already been recognised at the LAPF Investments Awards, which celebrate outstanding achievement by pension funds and service providers.

Swansea won the award for the fund with the Best Approach to Sustainable Investment in the UK in 2019. It’s also been nominated for Local Authority Pension Fund of The Year Best Climate Change Investment Strategy and Best Investment Innovation in this year’s awards, thanks to an equity protection programme that saved the fund £9m when the global equity market fell by -20% earlier this year due to the Covid-19 outbreak and also its carbon reduction total return swap programme which further reduced the portfolio’s carbon exposure.

Cllr Lloyd added: “In 2019 we passed a motion in Swansea declaring a Climate Emergency and we urged the UK government to do the same.

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“We are making decisions and taking practical steps every day that are making a real difference but we know we can and we will do more. We are determined to make Swansea the most green and energy efficient council in Wales.”

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Energy

New research reveals the top ways Brits are trying to keep a lid on soaring household energy prices

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From going to bed earlier to taking quicker showers and using a slow cooker instead of an oven – GoCompare reveals the measures people are taking to try and save on their energy bills at home

New research from GoCompare Energy has found that 83% of bill payers have seen their energy costs increase since the cost of gas and electricity has gone up exponentially.

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The research, which also asked more than 2100 people how they’re trying to curb costs around the home in light of these increased costs, shows that over two-thirds (64%) of those surveyed have started turning off the lights when they leave a room, making it the top measure people are taking to save money in the home. Other tactics included going to bed earlier, using the tumble dryer less and doing laundry at night.

Of the list of options provided, the top ten ways people are trying to save on their energy costs around the home were:

1Turning off lights when they leave the room                             64%
2Turning off appliances when they’re not being used / in standby mode54%
3Not filling the kettle to the top                             45%
4Washing clothes on a lower heat setting                             39%
5Having quicker showers                             36%
6Changing light bulbs to LED bulbs28%
7No longer using the tumble dryer                             24%
8Making the house more energy efficient                             19%
9Going to bed earlier                             18%
10Using the slow cooker instead of the oven                             17%

Just 10% of those asked said that they weren’t implementing any of the energy saving measures listed in the survey.

Other ways people are looking to save on their energy costs included doing the laundry at night(16%) visiting friends and family more (8%), spending more time in the office (5%), and 5% of people say they’re getting solar panels fitted.

Gareth Kloet, of GoCompare Energy, said on the findings: “With 83% of people feeling the impact of rising energy costs, it’s no wonder that lifestyle habits around the home will have been impacted. Some of these measures will undoubtedly help to keep increased costs to a minimum but there are obviously limits to the changes that people can make.

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“With the warmer weather hopefully on its way, we are now approaching the time of year when people traditionally use less energy, and some people may be feeling like there’s a bit of breathing space before the colder weather sets in again. But it’s important to remember that these habits can only be a good thing longer term – not just when it comes to saving on your bills, but also on the environment.

“If the market does return to some sort of normality and we start to see energy costs decrease, we would absolutely recommend that people continue with some of these changes longer term. Being aware of the way that energy is consumed in the house can only be a good thing and will be important to maintain even after things have improved in the market.”

For some other tips on how to save energy, visit this guide: https://www.gocompare.com/gas-and-electricity/guide/energy-saving-tips/

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Business

Gender pay gap: New research shows Swansea one of the fairest places in UK for women’s pay

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woman wearing white shirt

A new study reveals the UK’s fairest, best and worst places to work as a woman, compared to how much men are paid – with Swansea coming out 4th fairest in the UK.

The research, carried out by www.income-tax.co.uk, used the latest data available from the Office for National Statistics (ONS), to analyse the differences in median annual pay for male and female full-time workers in 321 districts across the UK.

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The district of Arun, in the heart of the country’s south coast, is the most gender-balanced workplace in the UK. On average, men in Arun have an annual income of £26,740, whereas women get £26,694 per year – £40 more than their male counterparts. That represents only a 0.15% pay difference.

Swansea comes in 4th fairest in the UK just behind Sunderland (2nd) and North East Derbyshire (3rd). On average men in Swansea have an annual salary of £28,525, with women earning £163 more a year with an average salary of £28,688.

While most of the places in the top 10 fall behind in terms of the UK’s average gross annual salary of £31,285, except for Stirling, they do make up in gender equality. Male and female wages in these 10 places only vary by up to £500 a year.

#PlaceMale average salary (£)Female average salary (£)Difference male-female av. salaries (£)*How much more men are paid than women (%)*
1Arun26,65426,694-40-0.15
2Sunderland26,63526,593420.16
3North East Derbyshire26,74026,691490.18
4Swansea28,52528,688-163-0.57
5Southend-on-Sea28,95229,185-233-0.80
6Stirling32,25832,722-464-1.44
7Tunbridge Wells27,94227,5244181.50
8Dumfries and Galloway27,20727,627-420-1.54
9Thanet26,44226,0144281.62
10Bedford29,62929,1334961.67

*negative value means women are paid more than men

Top 10 best workplaces for women

The area that inspired Jane Austen to pen some of her most well-known novels is now the best paying place for women to work in compared to men. Females working full-time in East Hampshire earn an average £4,086 more than males.

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Chorley and Conwy are the second and third, respectively, best paid places for women to earn more than men. Here, female full-timers earn almost three thousand pounds more than males.

The two places could not be more different in terms of their economic backgrounds. Historically, Chorley grew most after the Industrial Revolution, host to many important cotton mills, while Conwy is home to one of Kind Edward I’s castles. US Speaker Nancy Pelosi recently visited Chorley for the 2021 G7 Speakers’ summit, which gave the local economy an immediate boost.

#PlaceMale average salary (£)Female average salary (£)Difference female-male av. salaries (£)How much more women are paid than men (%)
1East Hampshire28,08732,1734,08614.55
2Chorley25,28528,2582,97311.76
3Conwy24,63427,4692,83511.51
4Rushcliffe29,60932,7203,11110.51
5Gwynedd25,50127,9902,4899.76
6South Oxfordshire32,86135,9643,1039.44
7Burnley21,48323,4331,9509.08
8North Ayrshire30,76233,1482,3867.76
9Ceredigion27,01628,5801,5645.79
10Carmarthenshire28,30029,5481,2484.41

Top 10 worst workplaces for women

At the opposite extremity of the gender pay gap is South Derbyshire – by far the worst offender. While deemed as one of the best places to live in England, women here only get about half of what men are paid. The data from the ONS suggests that, while men’s yearly salaries average to £33,967, women in South Derbyshire earn only £17,484. This is in high contrast to its county fellow North East Derbyshire, mentioned earlier, which ranks as the third fairest-paying place in the UK for both men and women.

As charming as its landscapes may be, Mole Valley paints a grim picture when it comes to gender equality in the workplace. Surprisingly, according to income-tax.co.uk, Mole Valley, is the UK’s eighth best paid place to work in, yet it fails to pay women anywhere near as much as men. While male full-timers rake in £49,222 per year on average, women in this Surrey district get 40.52% less.

The stunning island chain of Outer Hebrides on the north west coast of Scotland, also known as the Western Isles or Na h-Eileanan Siar in Scottish Gaelic, trails right behind as the third worst for gender pay equality. Women get around a third less than men.

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With only 29,000 living in Outer Hebrides, the islands rely heavily on tourism. Attracting roughly 219,000 visitors every year, tourism directly supports around a thousand jobs and hundreds of local businesses on the islands. Unfortunately, men rip most of the benefits, 38.36% more than women, to be precise. The average woman working in Outer Hebrides earns £21,518 a year, whereas men have an annual income of £34,911.

#PlaceMale average salary (£)Female average salary (£)Difference male-female av. salaries (£)How much more men are paid than women (%)
1South Derbyshire33,96717,48416,48348.53
2Mole Valley49,22229,27619,94640.52
3Na h-Eileanan Siar34,91121,51813,39338.36
4Dartford43,00926,76516,24437.77
5Erewash32,56820,80711,76136.11
6Redditch37,02324,10512,91834.89
7Gosport39,23725,79713,44034.25
8North Hertfordshire38,94825,64913,29934.15
9Rugby42,54328,36514,17833.33
10East Cambridgeshire33,61122,44811,16333.21

A spokesperson for income-tax.co.uk commented on the findings: “Our research suggests that some of the fairest employers are not necessarily the richest. Quite the opposite, in fact – districts with high-paying jobs in general tend to pay women much less.

“The difference in wages for males and females in Mole Valley is quite remarkable. Considering they can afford to pay men almost 50k a year, it is surprising that they slash 20k for women working there.

“Arun, Sunderland and North East Derbyshire were a nice surprise and employers operating there should get more credit for offering virtually equal pay for men and women. It is very fitting that women in East Hampshire, home to Jane Austen in her last eight prolific years, would earn nearly 15% more than men – the biggest leap of all.”

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Carmarthenshire

Carmarthenshire has fifth highest energy bills in UK according to new data

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Carmarthenshire will be amongst the worst hit by soaring energy costs, as research reveals it has one of the highest energy bills in the whole of the UK.

Households in Carmarthenshire pay £958 to their energy bills every year – over £200 more than the average UK bill (£757) and over £500 more than the UK area with the cheapest bills: Tower Hamlets in London.

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The research, by insurance experts A-Plan Insurance used new ONS data to analyse the energy bills in every local authority in England and Wales, to discover which region had the highest energy bills, and would be worst affected by the 54% increase in energy bills in April.

The Isles of Scilly in Cornwall had the most expensive energy bills, coming in at an average of £1,227.

Ceredigion in Wales has the UK’s second-highest bills (£1,092), and Welsh areas such as Gwynedd (£1,016), Carmarthenshire (£958) and Powys (£953) also dominate the UK’s top ten most expensive areas for energy.

At the other end of the scale, Tower Hamlets in London enjoys the UK’s lowest energy bills, with residents paying just £423 a year towards energy – over £300 less than the UK average.

Newham in London is the UK’s second cheapest area for energy bills, with households paying £458 a year for their energy. The City of London, Hackney and Southwark also have significantly cheaper energy bills than the rest of the nation.

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A spokesperson for A-Plan Insurance commented on the findings: “Energy bills are already sky-high and with bills soaring by a predicted £600 in Spring, it is those homes which are least energy efficient which will suffer the most from rising bills, as escaping heat will mean that your heating system works harder to compensate for the lack of warmth, costing you more.

“The government is advocating heat pumps as a solution to soaring energy bills, but these will not be effective without proper floor insulation – which 65 percent of homes in the UK currently lack. While households can use some hacks to insulate their homes better, for example, buying inexpensive pipe insulation from a DIY store, unless something serious is done about the energy crisis, we will see many more households driven into poverty.

“Although the government is introducing an ‘Energy Bills Rebate’ where energy customers will have £200 knocked off their bills, this functions as more of a ‘loan’ or a ‘buy now pay later scheme’, according to Money Saving Expert Martin Lewis, who points out that families will have to pay back the loan in equal instalments of £40 a year.

“Some energy suppliers offer hardship funds, where you can get up to £750 off your energy bills if you are living in fuel poverty, so if you are struggling, it’s worth checking if your supplier offers this”

UK’s most expensive areas for energy bills  

UK area  Rank  Average annual energy bill (£) 
Isles of Scilly 1,227 
Ceredigion 1,092 
Eden 1,056 
Gwynedd 1,016 
Carmarthenshire 958 
Powys 953 
Ryedale 939 
Pendle 937 
Derbyshire Dales 936 
Richmondshire 10 933 
UK average    757 

UK’s cheapest areas for energy bills  

UK area  Rank  Average annual energy bill (£)  
Tower Hamlets 423 
Newham 458 
City of London 474 
Hackney 486 
Southwark 504 
Islington 512 
Greenwich 527 
Dartford 539 
Lewisham 555 
Brent 10 556 
UK average    757 

(Lead image: Getty)

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