The fallout from the government’s Green Homes Grant (GHG) has affected Shropshire householders causing misery and annoyance and undermining the county’s climate targets, according to Shropshire’s Green Party councillor Julian Dean.
The much-promoted GHG scheme – which offered grants to householders in England to help them lower their energy bills and reduce their carbon footprint by retrofitting their homes with insulation – is due to be scrapped on Wednesday. Government figures revealed that it had only been taken up by 10% of the 600,000 homes that Chancellor Rishi Sunak hoped would apply for it. The government has blamed the scheme’s failure on a lack of interest.
Says Councillor Dean: ‘Shropshire residents have suffered badly from the government’s incompetence surrounding the Green Homes Grant. To claim there was a lack of interest is nonsense. I have heard from Shropshire homeowners who couldn’t find contractors to do the insulation work, and Shropshire contractors who couldn’t get paid by the scheme. One resident told me that his grant application wasn’t processed because his address couldn’t be verified, despite having lived at the same address for three decades. As a result of the delays, he was unable to have the work carried out. It is clear that this policy was ill thought-out and badly botched.’
The government has said that it now hopes to allocate the £300m from the GHG scheme into a new programme to be administered by local authorities and targeted at lower income households. That means Shropshire Council will be given a key role in getting housing stock properly insulated. Failure to do this will mean that emissions from gas boilers will prevent the UK from achieving its climate targets.
According to Shropshire Council insulating homes is a critical part of the Climate Emergency response in the county, although it is not yet clear how this will be achieved and the council has yet to ask its own building contractor Cornovii to start building zero carbon homes as standard.
Councillor Dean: ‘There is no way that Shropshire Council can achieve its much-touted Zero Carbon Shropshire plan without a proper retrofit strategy. The Shropshire Climate Action Partnership says we need to retrofit 20,000 homes in the county every year in order to achieve these aims. There is a real opportunity here to boost the local economy with green skills and green jobs, but it’s going to be missed by the current administration which, as usual, is dragging its feet.’
Councillor Dean suggests one way to achieve this would be by creating a Retrofit Partnership across the county with housing associations, Telford & Wrekin Council and local colleges; as well as restructuring the homes maintenance fund for a 10-year insulation and heat pump plan. Other local councils, including Lewes and Brighton & Hove, have already taken similar steps.
Says Councillor Dean: ‘We have a real opportunity here to give homeowners warmer homes and lower heating bills, while also providing an economic boost for local suppliers and installers. If we do this properly, we can help slash Shropshire carbon emissions at the same time. It’s a win for everyone. Unfortunately, Shropshire Council doesn’t have a vision to bring this to fruition. It’s yet another reason why we need more Green councillors elected on 6 May.’