Industry responses to Green Homes Grant cancellation

The Green Homes Grant in England will be scrapped, due to a supposed lack of participation and sign up.

Heralded as an opportunity to revolutionise Britain’s homes in the fight against climate change, just 10% of the 600,000 eligible homes have signed up for the scheme.

The £300 million scheme which was introduced in 2020 to offer £10,000 to homeowners looking to upgrade their homes will now be reallocated to councils and local authorities. And with 19 million homes in the UK still in need of an environmental facelift, the administration of the campaign has drawn significant criticism, ranging from the outsourcing of logistics to American-based companies to the inability to source local tradespeople for installations.

In our view, with green homes top of the Government’s agenda to reach net zero carbon emissions by 2050, the Green Homes Grant was destined for failure from the outset.

Ben Dyer, CEO of Powered Now, has offered his insights into how future schemes could be managed better in light of the failings of the current scheme.

“During the Green Homes Grant, we were regularly hearing from or clients a tale of two stories; they were either inundated with jobs, or had zero pick up. Customers of the scheme as well have echoed these sentiments, and have also stated that there were installers in the market who weren’t playing by the rules.

“By outsourcing the logistics of the scheme to American-based businesses, the Government was neglecting the resources that we have on our front doorstep. The Government should have worked with commercial schemes to determine who the trusted suppliers in the UK were. In this country we have a wealth of trusted comparison sites for tradespeople, and by getting any of them on board to help with the administration would have led to everyone being a winner.

“The other issue was that the Government did not approach this with the simplicity they did for schemes such as furlough. Simplicity frankly should have been the watchword for the entire scheme, but with varying definitions of what people could apply for, and ambiguities of what bad players in the market were charging customers, this was often lost in translation. If schemes are not straightforward, people wont use it.

“The scheme also suffered from a case of being far too short term in its outlook. While the grant was further extended so that it would expire by March 2022, in reality, if green homes are top of the agenda for battling climate change and reaching net zero carbon emissions by 2050, what hope have we if the scheme ends 28 years before that date?”

However we are not alone in thinking this.

The Government’s decision to cancel the Green Homes Grant scheme will damage the country’s progress towards net zero targets, says the Federation of Master Builders (FMB).

Brian Berry, Chief Executive of the FMB, said: “The misguided scrapping of the Green Homes Grant scheme sends entirely the wrong message to consumers and builders, and will harm the UK’s desire to be seen as a global leader in tackling climate change.

“Flaws with the scheme should have been addressed, in consultation with industry, with a commitment to training. Instead we have another example of a stop-go green initiative that undermines, rather than creates, certainly for both the public and installers. The Government needs to be more ambitious in its thinking and set out a long-term plan to upgrade our existing homes to make them greener and more energy efficient. A national retrofit strategy would address this need and allow the Government to be taken seriously as well as regain the trust of industry.”

“Small, local builders who have spent thousands of pounds becoming eligible for work under the scheme rightly feel let down and angry. Without these workers on the Government’s side, we will fail to retrofit our 28 million existing homes, missing the opportunities for green growth, new jobs, and to level up.” Brian concluded.

Richard Beresford, Chief Executive of the National Federation of Builders (NFB), said: “In order to access this scheme, thousands of small businesses jumped through costly hoops to win this work. Closing it with four days’ notice is completely disrespectful and some small businesses will close because of it.” 

The Government cannot dwell on this failure and it is time to move on and ensure that next time, industry is at the heart of retrofitting policy. This is why NFB is backing the National Retrofit Strategy (NRS).

Rico Wojtulewicz, Head of Housing and Planning Policy at the NFB and who sits on the Construction Leadership Council (CLC), Repair, Maintenance and Improvement taskforce, said: “Had anybody listened to industry, this could have been a successful scheme. The Government needs to create a market environment for retrofitting works and understand that there isn’t yet the skilled workforce in every area to complete retrofitting works at the standard the Government set.

“Once it has a pathway to upskill industry, it must seek out professionals already doing these works and in the early days, allow them access to any accredited retrofitting works. It also needs to reform planning so these works can more easily go ahead.

“It must also offer market, not just tax payer funded incentives. We recommend a stamp duty rebate on homes which new homeowners can get to EPC C within two years, as well as an exemption on the most energy efficient new homes. It should also offer a VAT cut on our 9 million traditional and heritage buildings; as this will build a highly skilled workforce and stimulate the most innovative retrofitting solutions.

“With these four very simple policy changes, our COP 26 blushes will be spared, industry trust will start to be rebuilt and the NRS, which is our best opportunity for change, will start from the best position possible.”

This was an a original article from Professional Builder.

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