TAX payers have had a lucky escape with the introduction of a new ‘green’ programme that will save money.

As part of central government’s commitment to carbon savings and energy efficiency, councils are charged £12 for every tonne of carbon they emit, including heating and lighting public buildings.

As of this month that tax has risen to £16, and will include street lighting for the first time – meaning that Hampshire County Council would have faced an estimated £140,000 extra per year in carbon tax, had it not have been for the street lighting replacement programme.

The council has set about replacing over 150,000 street lights as part of their target to reduce carbon emissions by 20 per cent by 2015 and have recently invested £1.4 million into an energy performance programme that will save a further £200,000 per year.

The programme will see 25 of the council’s top energy-consuming buildings made more efficient, and is expected to save £5 million over the next 25 years.

Cllr Mel Kendal, Hampshire County Council executive member for income and capital records, said: "We are on track to achieve our 20 per cent carbon reduction target by 2015.

“This is part of our energy strategy that aims to help Hampshire reduce the risks of future energy security and affordability, and contribute to a sustainable low carbon economy throughout Hampshire - all of which will save the taxpayer money.

“The positive steps we have already taken to cut our energy use will help us to lower our energy bills in future, and plough those savings back into providing local services to the people of Hampshire.”