£3bn Home Grants Scheme Stalls Weeks After Launch

£3bn Home Grants Scheme Stalls Weeks After Launch
The process of accreditation is discouraging builders and installers from joining the home grants scheme to improve the energy efficiency of homes in England.

Tradesmen are failing to sign up to the Government’s plan to insulate draughty homes, leaving thousands of households unable to apply for the £3bn green home grants. The scheme, offering up to £5,000 or £10,000 for those on low incomes, for energy efficiency measures such as insulation and heat pumps, is aimed at helping people save on gas and electricity bills.

Unveiled in July as part of a rescue package to rebuild the economy in the wake of the cornavirus pandemic, the home grants scheme is also intended to cut carbon emissions and create thousands of green jobs.

According to government data, only 1,174 installers have signed up to the scheme, which began on September 30, while more than 36,000 householders have applied for the grants, which will be available until March next year.

The scheme, as yet the UK’s only policy measure aimed at a green recovery, despite the PM’s promise to ‘build back better’, is causing green campaigners increasing concern.

Within the next fortnight, Boris Johnson is expected to unveil a 10-point plan for reaching net zero emissions, but it is assumed the programme will omit many of the so-called ‘shovel-ready’ green projects economists have said would create jobs and transform the UK into a low-carbon country.

Complexity of home grants scheme deters tradesmen

Although households wishing to take advantage of the scheme must find an accredited installer to carry out the work, many tradesmen are reluctant to invest the time and money required to obtain accreditation. The short duration of the scheme means they fear being left in the lurch when it closes.

The Federation of Master Builders (FMB), representing a large number of the small building firms expected to deliver the energy efficiency improvements, said many of its members were deterred by the complexity of the accreditation process. Brian Berry, the FMB’s chief executive, believes the green home grants scheme is ‘a positive step forward’ but is not enough.

In its present form, he said, many builders have decided that the scheme is just not worth the level of investment needed.

Andrew McCausland, director of Wirral Property Group, spent around £6,000 and an estimated 160 hours of unpaid work to enable his team to become accredited. Given the size of his business, he felt the process was worthwhile, but acknowledged that smaller firms could find it more challenging.

It had taken him many days, he said, to work through the requirements of the various certifying and accrediting bodies and arrange suitable insurance cover, so the whole process had been very time-consuming for him to navigate. He would advise other builders to get involved only if they have dedicated administrative support on the payroll.

Govt commitment needed

Builders and insulation installers have bitter memories of the previous green deal which was abandoned five years ago, leading to the loss of tens of thousands of jobs in the sector. Since then, there has been no government incentive for households to better insulate their homes and the industry has stagnated as a result.

Berry has urged the Government to bring forward the £9.2bn of spending pledged in the Conservative manifesto for home energy efficiency, and to cut VAT on home improvements to 5pc.

Ed Matthew, associate director of the E3G thinktank, believes it is no surprise that demand for the vouchers has greatly exceeded the ability of the insulation industry to respond, as the sector almost collapsed after funding was slashed last time.

What is needed, he said, is government commitment to continue and expand the green home grants scheme, turning it into the UK’s No 1 infrastructure investment priority.

In May, economists and the Government’s statutory climate advisers, the Committee on Climate Change, set out a variety of ‘shovel-ready’ measures.

These include: investing in renewable energy; setting up a national network of electric vehicle charging points; building broadband capacity; maintaining and building new flood defences; tree planting and restoring natural features such as peatland.

And last week, the Government unveiled a green jobs taskforce, aimed at creating 2m jobs by 2030.

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