Leader of Brent Council accuses the government of fracking bribery

Brent Friends of the Earth is fighting to keep the borough free of fracking. Picture credit: Jan Nev

Brent Friends of the Earth is fighting to keep the borough free of fracking. Picture credit: Jan Nevill - Credit: Archant

The leader of Brent Council has accused the government of “bribing” local authorities into approving controversial fracking projects by offering millions in tax revenue.

Cllr Muhammed Butt

Cllr Muhammed Butt - Credit: Archant

In a move to drive the extraction of shale gas in England, Prime Minister David Cameron announced councils would receive 100 per cent of the business rates collected from drilling schemes - double the usual 50 per cent.

Prime Minister David Cameron. Picture: Dominic Lipinski/PA Wire

Prime Minister David Cameron. Picture: Dominic Lipinski/PA Wire - Credit: PA Wire/Press Association Images

Cllr Muhammed Butt, who has lobbied against the controversial technology being introduced in the borough, said: “Offering tax incentives is another way of passing on the buck to councils to make decisions which are more based on finances than sound information.

“Throwing money at it is another way of blackmailing councils. It is not right.”

He added: “The government still need to make sure that the proper safeguards have been put in place to ensure there won’t be a great environmental impact on our community.”

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In November last year, Cllr Butt pledged to investigate whether powers granted by the Localism or Planning Acts would allow the council to ban fracking in the borough amid concerns expressed by local environmentalist groups.

Mr Cameron said that fracking could potentially lead to the reduction in energy bills as well as well as generating thousands of jobs.

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Friends of the Earth (FoE), an environmental group, have been campaigning for councillors from all parties to pledge to block fracking proposals.

Pam Laurance from Brent FoE said: “The government is bribing cash strapped local authorities who poor because they have taken so much money away from them and are now saying we will give you money if you do this.

“It is wrong.”

Energy Minister Michael Fallon said the incentive on offer was the same as for other renewable technologies such as wind farms and solar energy.

He said: “It is only right, when there is local growth and local jobs, that the councils are able to retain more of the business rates in order to help improve or maintain local services.

“I think that is only fair that local people should see some of the direct benefit.”

The announcement came as French company Total confirmed it is to invest 30 million in drilling for shale gas in Lincolnshire.

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