Steven Heath: “The government must look at improving all of our housing stock, not attempting to insulate cavity walls one year and solid walls the next.”

Knauf Insulation challenges government cuts to green levies on BBC news

Published:  03 December, 2013

During an interview aired on the BBC’s News at Ten on Friday 29 November, Knauf Insulation has called on the government to introduce long term and viable plans to improve all of the UK’s housing stock as part of its review of green levies.

The interview followed BBC news reports that energy suppliers will be given an extra two years in which to fulfill their obligations under ECO, thus reducing the cost to customers’ energy bills. However, as several key industry figures have pointed out, this would place thousands of jobs at risk and mean many of those living in some of the worst homes in the UK will miss out on much needed home improvements.

A press release issued yesterday (2 December) by the Department of Energy and Climate Change appeared to confirm the BBC report, announcing a number of proposed changes to the ECO scheme, including offering homeowners up to £1,000 to spend on energy efficiency measures when they buy a new home.

Steven Heath, Knauf Insulation’s external affairs director, said: “While we welcome the move to encourage homeowners to invest in energy efficiency measures in their properties, the changes appear to have taken money from one programme delivery route in order to fund another. That is, the community based solid wall insulation programmes primarily delivered though social housing providers have been cut in favour of driving energy efficiency in the owner-occupier or private rented sector.

“Our rapidly ageing housing stock needs both routes to be tackled simultaneously – not an ‘either or’ approach. The government must look at improving all of our housing stock, not attempting to insulate cavity walls one year and solid walls the next – or, as appears to have happened now, by initially promoting social housing solid wall insulation schemes through ECO then effectively transferring much of that funding over to private sector refurbishment. The government’s long term plan should be to build area based programmes and bring new players delivering private householder engagement business models to the market – not flipping between the two.”

Mr Heath continued: “Ultimately it is down to the government to tread the line between how much is funded through energy bills, direct taxation or private finance mechanisms like the Green Deal but the raw statistics are hard to ignore. The government’s own figures show that tough decisions are inevitable sooner rather than later. Wholesale gas prices have risen year on year for 20 years while predictions are that household energy bills will rise at 18% above inflation up to 2030. The £50 saving the proposed new green levies package promises will offer little and temporary comfort in the face of such rises.

“On the recent evidence and with 31,000 excess winter deaths last winter – an increase of 29% compared to the previous year – it’s hard to think we will look back at this government in a decade's time and say that ensuring we have warm homes that were affordable to heat was their priority.”

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