2015 Budget 'a disappointment for energy efficiency'
Published: 19 March, 2015
A wage increase for apprenticeships, frozen fuel duties and help for first-time buyers were among the key spending plans outlined by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne, in yesterday's Budget.
While the construction industry has reacted positively to these plans, others have expressed their disappointment that the Budget contained no measures to encourage energy efficiency in homes and buildings.
John Alker, director of policy and communications and acting CEO of the UK Green Building Council said: "The Chancellor is clearly running down the clock on this Parliament and its efforts to improve the energy efficiency of our buildings. While his backing of the Swansea Bay tidal lagoon project shows that this government's commitment to the green agenda is not entirely dead in the water, this is an otherwise barren Budget for energy efficiency – demand reduction remains the Cinderella of energy policy.
"Osborne's failure to extend the Landlords Energy Saving Allowance (LESA) is particularly disappointing, and will leave a major funding gap for landlords wanting to improve their properties to meet the new regulations for 2018."
The LESA scheme is due to finish next month.
Other key announcements in the budget include:
- September's planned petrol duty rise has been frozen.
- The personal allowance before which people must pay income tax is to rise from £10,600 in 2015/16, to £10,800 in 2016/17, and to £11,000 the following year.
- The 40p income tax threshold will rise from £42,385 this year, to £43,300 by the 2017/18 tax year.
- Annual paper tax returns will be abolished and replaced with 'real-time' digital accounts by 2020, requiring individuals and small businesses to submit accounts throughout the year and pay their taxes at any point.
- A new 'Help to Buy' ISA for first-time buyers will mean that, for every £200 saved towards the deposit on a property, the government will add £50.
The Chancellor also announced there would be a comprehensive review of business rates, and revealed the introduction of 20 new 'housing zones' across the country.
In an attempt to boost the UK apprenticeship system, government has also proposed a digital voucher system for apprenticeship funding, and an 20% increase in the minimum wage for apprentices, up to £3.30 an hour.
Colin Timmins of BEAMA echoed Mr Alker's disappointment with the lack of help for energy efficiency schemes.
He said: "The Chancellor has failed to provide more focus on the subject of energy efficiency, in the final Budget of this Parliament. In particular it would have been good to see the government set out a long-term commitment to the Renewable Heat Incentive.
"As a country we need to be greener and we wanted to see the government taking more steps to ensure we are all more energy efficient. Installing renewable energy sources into homes, old and new, will ultimately lead to greater energy security. Running an energy efficient home also benefits owners and occupiers as they will save on their energy bills in the long run. As an industry we need to educate people on how to make their own homes energy efficient, and increasingly inform home owners about the options available to them. The government should be backing this as strongly as we are."
The Federation of Master Builders (FMB) said the government's proposed 'voucher model' for apprenticeship funding showed that Ministers have listened to the construction industry.
Brian Berry, chief executive of the FMB, said: "Today the government has finally set out a clear direction of travel in terms of its apprenticeship funding reforms. The new digital apprenticeship voucher model is a vast improvement on what was formerly proposed. However, we do still have some concerns about the potential for this new system to add additional administrative burden for small firms. To counter this, we will be working closely with the next government to minimise any added bureaucracy. For SMEs, bureaucracy is the biggest barrier to engagement in any scheme so industry and government must work together to help ensure this new system does not have a detrimental impact on apprenticeship numbers."