Energy costs

Ministers explore ‘cutting’ Gazprom from School Switch scheme

But hamstrung councils say it's 'immoral' schools pay Russian firm

But hamstrung councils say it's 'immoral' schools pay Russian firm

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Ministers are exploring how to “further cut ties” with Gazprom after calls by sector leaders for the Russian energy giant to be removed as a supplier to schools.

Gazprom is one of 10 suppliers on the Crown Commercial Service’s School Switch scheme, which helps schools find better energy deals.

School leaders’ union ASCL called for government to remove Gazprom from the list and give schools guidance on how to proceed with existing contracts amid Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Geoff Barton, ASCL general secretary, said: “The abhorrent behaviour of the Russian government in Ukraine demands the strongest possible response and we are sure that schools, colleges and local authorities will welcome support from the government over how to deal with this situation.”

In response, in a statement provided to Schools Week, the government said it was now “exploring all options on how we can further cut ties with companies that prop up the Russian and Belarusian regime”.

This appears a stronger stance than last week, when the government said: “It is of the utmost importance we explore every possible avenue to ensure British taxpayers’ money isn’t funding Putin’s war machine.

“We’re also working closely with councils and other public bodies to ensure they are able to comply with the financial and investment restrictions on Russia and will engage with them on what support they need to do this.”

Further details will be set out in due course, they added. The CCS has not said how many schools are signed up it to Gazprom through its services.

It comes as health secretary Sajid Javid said the NHS in England must stop using energy supplied by Gazprom, PA Media reported.

Analysis by public procurement data providers Tussell claimed total UK public sector with Gazprom between 2016 and 2021 totalled £107 million.

Of this, £77 million came from the NHS and £29 million from local authorities.

Manchester council, which signed a £3.6 million deal in 2018 to supply gas to the majority of its schools, is now looking at “alternative gas providers”. Its Gazprom ends this month.

Blackburn with Darwen Borough Council are also intending to end their contract with the firm. Suffolk County Council decided to “invoke” their “option to break away” from their three year energy deal.

Salford council is also looking for a new supplier. A £1.8 million contract, signed in 2020 to supply the city’s schools, libraries and leisure centres over two years, is due for renewal in June.

City Mayor Paul Dennett said he does not want pubilc money to be spent “towards the income of the Russian state”.

But he said Gazprom’s involvement in bidding for tender is “enshrined” in UK regulations. He said there may be “no way to limit bids” from the company.

He said called for clarity on whether government has “any intention” to sanction Gazprom, as it could better protect councils.

Merton council has asked for the law to be changed. The current Local Government Act bans councils from considering things like the location of the bidder or any political affiliations when awarding contracts.

Mark Allison, its council leader, said “it is immoral for British public sector bodies, such as councils, schools, hospitals and so on, to provide financial support to that regime”.

Bloomberg reported Gazprom was being kicked out of its central London office in the wake up of the Ukraine invasion.

Gazprom was approached for comment.



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