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Plans to improve energy efficiency of council houses ‘wholly inadequate’


Government plans to improve the energy efficiency of 20,000 council houses are “wholly inadequate” and a “drop in the ocean” compared to what is needed, the Green Party has said.

Environmental groups and local leaders said a new pot of funding to upgrade social housing does not go far enough to help keep down fuel bills and reduce emissions from homes across England.

Around £179m has been spread across under 70 councils in England for projects aimed at improving the energy performance of homes in the Social Housing Decarbonisation Fund’s first wave of funding. The second wave is set to run next financial year.

The government said this support would help thousands of council houses to become more efficient, helping to reduce household bills and their carbon footprint.

But Polly Billington, the chief executive of the UK100 network of local leaders, told The Independent: “Any new money to improve social housing is welcome, but helping 20,000 homes is a drop in the ocean when 2.5 million households live in fuel poverty.”

She added: “We need to accelerate plans to support our homes, which are some of the leakiest in Europe, and ensure the Conservative manifesto commitment to spend £9bn on energy efficiency is met in full.”

Cara Jenkinson from the climate change charity Ashden said the £179m pledge represented the “fraction” of the estimated £100bn needed to decarbonise all social housing.

The 2019 Tory manifesto pledged £3.8bn to the Social Housing Decarbonisation Fund over 10 years.

Zoe Nicholson from the Green Party said the fund was “wholly inadequate”.

“It is a drop in the ocean compared to what is needed to make all social homes warm and healthy,” she said. “Some councils report that their award under this fund represents around just three per cent of what is needed.”

Green groups and councils toldThe Independent last month progress in decarbonising council houses and private properties was being hindered due to the way schemes work and gaps in support.

Councils bid for funding in the Social Housing Decarbonisation Fund’s first wave last year, with a trial run before this handing out £62m to 16 local authorities for projects.

Ms Nicolson told The Independent this scheme was an “inefficient way of allocating funds”.

“Writing bids involves a huge amount of work which is completely wasted for those authorities which are unsuccessful,” the Green New Deal spokesperson for the Green Party said. “Addressing the climate emergency and helping those facing fuel poverty are too important to be dependent on a competitive bidding process.”

Homes are estimated to account for around a fifth of the UK’s greenhouse gas emissions. Experts say reducing their reliance on fossil fuels and improving their energy efficiency – for example, with better insulation – is key to tackling the climate crisis.

Last autumn, the government published its Heat and Building strategy, which, among other measures, included a grant for homeowners to upgrade gas boilers to heat pumps.

The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy has been approached for comment.

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