Fleet News

Financial lifeline as Powershift takes off

THE Government has thrown the Energy Saving Trust a £300,000 financial lifeline amid soaring demand for grants from its Powershift programme which threatened to throw the scheme into financial chaos. Since 1998 the Powershift programme has provided grants of between 25% and 75% towards the extra cost of acquiring or converting a new alternatively fuelled vehicle, but in the last few months it has been a victim of its own success.

So successful has the trust's promotion of the grant scheme been that demand for financial support threatened to exceed the Powershift scheme's budget of £3.3 million by between 10% and 15%. But the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions has given a further £300,000, enabling Powershift to fulfill its commitments until the end of this financial year. Jonathan Murray, Powershift's transport programme manager, said: 'We were taken aback since the cumulative effect of our promotion of the grant scheme and the March Budget saw inquiries to our hotline increase by 35%.

'And while in the year to the end of August we'd issued grants for £1 million, applications for September and October alone reached £2 million. It became clear very quickly that we weren't going to be able to meet our commitments and we therefore began urgent talks with the DETR. The additional money is great news. It demonstrates the excellent working relationship we have with the Government.'

Talks are also on-going which could secure future funding for a further four years, instead of the one-year grant awarded last year. 'There's nothing to say we won't find demand continuing to rocket next year,' Murray said. 'Our original proposal two years ago for the 2000/01 budget was £5.6 million. I suspect that will be too low.'

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