Schools that have invested in solar panels as part of their green energy strategies are now facing a £1.8m bill from the government because of the recent rise in business rates. The changes will be a particularly big setback for investments in solar at state schools, according to critics of the new tax.
Opponents to the rate changes have described them as 'nonsensical' and 'ludicrous', and the measures will affect over 1,000 state schools that invested in solar power to help tackle climate change, educate their pupils about sustainability and create vital new revenue streams at a time when budgets were being squeezed.
Figures gathered from a survey of 74 education authorities have showed that 821 solar-enabled schools will be forced to pay an additional £800,000 in business rate taxes after April 4 because of the changes. If these figures are extrapolated across all English and Welsh authorities, the total will climb to c. £1.8 million.
The Treasury received a petition with over 200,000 signatures against the move this week from Eleanor Palmer Primary School in North London.
A teacher from the school explained that every bit of income from the solar project was reinvested in pupil resources.
The Valuation Office said last year that non-domestic small-scale solar projects would no longer be excluded from paying rates. Additionally, bigger solar developments which are already included in business rate schemes will see tax hikes of up to 800pc. On a school with a 10KW standard solar system, the new tax could equate to around £800 every year.
Private schools that have invested in solar projects will be exempt from paying the new fees because they hold charitable status. Scottish schools will also not be affected.