Thursday, 9 January 2014

Now is the winter of our discontent as funding for home insulation programmes comes to a halt?


Energy Bills
After the 2012 winter of discontent, freezing temperatures, snow drifts and icy conditions, leaving many people stranded on motorways or stuck in their homes, there was a bigger shock to come for consumers as the quarterly heating bills came through the letter box. 

Fuel poverty was a term that came to be heard on television, radio, newspapers and via the internet. This was particularly difficult for low-income households living in the worst performing housing stock, in terms of energy efficiency.

Housing associations report a 20% drop in funding for insulation projects

However the rolling programme of Eco and Affordable Warmth schemes did bring a ray of hope, especially for those living in housing association properties. Many housing associations invested time and energy by carrying out insulation works through funding provided by central government. Now it seems this funding has come to somewhat of a halt according to a survey about to be published by Inside Housing publications. Inside Housing surveyed 47 of the biggest housing associations and they have been reporting a 20% drop in funding, which amounts to a 75% drop in business, for the smaller companies who have been contracted in to carry out this much needed insulation programme.

Pause for thought whilst consumers faced with spiralling energy costs

The words of the old refrain, “there’s a hole in my bucket, dear Liza, dear Liza,” came to me as I listened to the explanation of the Energy Secretary. It would seem that 47 of the largest housing associations, the UK Green Building Council,the lovely Winifred (aforesaid Radio 4 presenter) and one confused listener recalling whether straw really could mend a leaking bucket, had misunderstood the new policy around funding these essential energy efficiency programmes. The government claim they are cutting back the cost of our heating bills but in order to do this they are reducing and stopping funding for essential insulation to homes that lose heat and therefore incur larger energy costs. The answer came that there was not a reduction, nor a cut back, but a “pause” in order to deliver efficiency through Eco and Green Deal. The new rules apparently about the new policy are not out yet and will be up for consultation. Winifred and I were still left questioning this as the interview drew to a halt. 

Fine, I understand the need for efficiency and I understand the need for transparency and consultation, but what I do have difficulty understanding is why they choose to do this in the depths of mid-winter? Why not allow the housing associations to complete their fully funded programmes of insulation at a time when consumers really need to conserve warmth and energy? Consult during the spring and then new funding can be ready for autumn when it starts to get colder, it’s not as if the seasons come as a complete surprise to everyone. 

If you have qualified for energy grants or had your insulation work cancelled and it is going to put a strain on your household budget then let us know – we’re listening!

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