CORONAVIRUS is a “key risk” to a local plan to fund projects that cut carbon emissions and tackle the climate emergency.

People in West Berkshire will soon be able to invest in a ‘community bond’ for as little as £5, which will go towards plans to install solar panels and plant trees across the district.

West Berkshire Council wants to borrow £1million, using community bonds, in a pilot that is scheduled to launch on May 1.

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If successful, the council could then borrow much more as it ramps up efforts to get West Berkshire carbon neutral by 2030. Investors will get paid an interest rate of about 1.5per cent.

The community bonds let the council borrow money more cheaply than how it normally does, through the government’s ‘public works loan board’. For the £1million pilot, the scheme could save the taxpayer between £13,000 and £24,000.

But, the coronavirus pandemic has created a “key risk” that the public might not have appetite for investing, given the dour financial situation many people have suddenly found themselves in.

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Joseph Holmes, the council’s executive director of resources, said: “The key risk in light of Covid-19 is the … lack of public appetite for investment in the financial climate at the current time.

“One key risk with the launch of the bond is a lack of uptake from investors.”

He mentioned the risks in a report to the council executive, which will meet on April 30 to give the final sign-off to the community bond scheme.

Four other councils are piloting the bond, although West Berkshire will likely be first to launch. The other four are: Blaenau Gwent, Warrington, Leeds and Kingston Upon Thames.

Researchers at Trinity College Dublin will report on the changes in the attitude of investors to the council, as well as more broadly on sustainable development and climate change.

While the scheme will be marketed at people living in West Berkshire, it will be open for other people to invest in, too.

Mr Holmes said: “Ideally, the council would want a majority of investors to come from within the district. However, it will take time for people to be aware of this scheme, so the first bond may have a broader mix of investor.”

Lead councillors gave permission in December for due diligence work to be carried out, which has now been completed. Abundance, an investment company, will administer the bonds.

If there is not enough appetite from investors, then financial services giant Legal & General could step in, buy some of the bonds and help the council reach the £1million target, according to Mr Holmes.