Government's green deal needs to help the poorest - LGA

Published on Friday, 20 January 2012 10:14
Posted by Scott Buckler

Millions of struggling families will miss out on a Government fund to help those who cannot afford to heat their homes – despite the fact they will have to pay a surcharge on their energy bills to fund it, council leaders have said

The Local Government Association (LGA), which represents more than 350 councils in England and Wales, today warned that the Government's forthcoming Green Deal would leave some of the country's most vulnerable families out in the cold and could increase fuel poverty.

Current proposals – set to come into effect in October - would prohibit social housing landlords and tenants applying for money made available under the new Affordable Warmth Target fund.

Householders will be able to apply for money from the fund to pay for home improvements like loft and wall insulation which will reduce energy use and deliver savings on their bills. But the money will only be available to people who own or rent their home privately.

Council leaders have warned this could hinder the ability of local authorities to help families and residents in social housing who are on low incomes, in fuel poverty and vulnerable to the effects of the cold.

It would come as a double blow to tenants, tens of thousands of whom have just had solar panel installations scrapped as a result of government Feed-in Tariff cuts.

The Affordable Warmth Target is an obligation on energy suppliers to reduce the heating bills of those most vulnerable to cold. The money to pay for this is taken from everyone's energy bills – including those of social tenants.

In a response to the Government's consultation submitted this week, the LGA said that councils believe the Green Deal has the potential to help improve the energy efficiency of homes across the country and cut energy bills for residents and businesses, but only if money is distributed fairly.

The LGA is also calling for safeguards to be put in place to ensure energy companies are obliged to work with those less well-off to deliver their carbon reduction obligation. Up to now energy companies have been able to cherry pick properties who are able to pay the most towards any improvements carried out.

Cllr David Parsons, Chairman of the LGA Environment Board, said:

"We want to get behind the Government's Green Deal but councils – who are the forefront of providing help to those who need it most – cannot endorse an approach which explicitly excludes some of the poorest and most vulnerable living in our social housing.

"This would be a double blow to millions of hard-up families in council and housing association homes who are also currently being told by government that they will be entitled to less help installing solar panels.

"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 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.

"Energy companies should be required to do more to help the poorest in society, not less."

 

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