13 January 2014
David Cameron has announced a huge tax break for any councils willing to approve fracking projects in their area, as the Government goes "all out" to promote shale gas mining.
The Prime Minister said local authorities would receive 100 per cent of the business rates collected from drilling schemes - double their usual 50 per cent - in a move which Greenpeace has slammed as a "naked attempt to bribe councils".
The Government sees shale gas as having the potential to "guarantee energy supplies", as well as generating billions for the economy and supporting around 74,000 jobs.
Mr Cameron said: "A key part of our long-term economic plan to secure Britain's future is to back businesses with better infrastructure. "That's why we're going all out for shale. It will mean more jobs and opportunities for people, and economic security for our country".
The announcement came as the French company Total confirmed it will invest about £30 million in a Lincolnshire drilling project currently run by a US firm. It is believed to be the first major energy company to buy a share in UK fracking.
The business minister Michael Fallon wrote in the Sun on Sunday that it was time for Britain to "embrace the extraordinary opportunities offered by shale gas".
But environmentalists said today's tax break, which could see councils receive an extra £1.7 million a year from each fracking site they approve, showed just how "worried" the Government is about local opposition to the controversial extraction method.
Lawrence Carter of Greenpeace said: "This is a naked attempt by the Government to bribe hard pressed councils into accepting fracking in their area.
"Cameron is effectively telling councils to ignore the risks and threat of large-scale industrialisation in exchange for cold hard cash.
"Having had their claims that fracking will bring down energy bills and create jobs thoroughly discredited, the Government is now resorting to straight up bribery to sell their deeply unpopular fracking policy."
Jane Thomas, a senior campaigner with Friends of the Earth, added: "It's ironic that a French-owned company is seeking to drill the UK for shale gas when it's banned from fracking in France due to environmental concerns."
A Local Government Association (LGA) spokesman said: "Councils have been clear that the people and communities whose areas host fracking sites must feel the benefit.
"Today's announcement from the Prime Minister is a step in the right direction, which will mean that business rates paid by shale gas firms will help councils to maintain and improve local services for residents."
Source: The Independent by Adam Withnall