Affordable warmth fund should be for everyone, says LGA

20 Jan 12
Millions of struggling families will miss out on help from the government’s Green Deal energy efficiency scheme and could end up in fuel poverty, according to the Local Government Association.

By Nick Mann | 20 January 2012

Millions of struggling families will miss out on help from the government’s Green Deal energy efficiency scheme and could end up in fuel poverty, according to the Local Government Association.

Under the initiative, due to come into effect in October, homeowners identified as most in need of heating or insulation improvements to reduce their energy costs will be able to apply for money from a new Affordable Warmth Target fund.

However, the LGA says current proposals for the scheme exclude social housing landlords and tenants from applying for money from this pot, which will be made available only to those who buy or rent privately.

It argues that the Affordable Warmth Target is an obligation on energy companies and, as such, is being funded by money taken from everyone’s energy bills – including social housing tenants. Excluding these residents from the fund could hinder local authorities’ ability to help social housing tenants on low incomes, in fuel poverty and vulnerable to the effects of the cold.

David Parsons, chair of the LGA environment board, said: ‘We want to get behind the government’s Green Deal but councils cannot endorse an approach which explicitly excludes some of the poorest and most vulnerable living in our social housing.’

He said the approach would be a ‘double blow’ to residents in social housing who also lost out when the government cut the support available to solar power installations under the Feed-in Tariff.

Parsons added: ‘Even after the recent reductions announced by the energy companies, gas and electricity bills are going up year on year and those on the lowest incomes need help to ensure they are not priced out of being able to afford to heat their homes.

‘We urge government to reconsider any decision to exclude social tenants from an initiative designed to support the most vulnerable and to put in place strong safeguards which ensure that energy companies are no longer able to cherry pick households who can afford to contribute the most money to the Green Deal.’

The LGA has sent a joint letter with the National Housing Federation to energy and climate change minister Greg Barker to raise its concerns over the issue. A consultation on the Green Deal plans closed on January 18.

A spokeswoman for the Department of Energy and Climate Change said: ‘Ninety-two per cent of social housing now meets the Decent Homes Standard, which requires all homes to have a heating system and basic level of insulation, so it makes sense to concentrate affordable warmth in low income and vulnerable homes where it can make the most difference.’

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