The Johnson government walked away from its undelivered flagship policy to insulate Britain’s energy-wasting homes, MPs claim in a scathing new report.
Chaired by senior Conservative Philip Dunne, and with the majority of its members Conservatives, the Commons’ environmental audit committee says BEIS’s abandonment of the £1.5bn Green Homes Grant scheme, only six months after launch, has left a ‘worrying gap’ in Britain’s efforts to reach Net Zero.
Unveiled in July, the national drive involved homeowners having costs of vital insulation measures met through a system of vouchers. But the scheme was soon dogged by slow issuance of the vouchers, by slow payment of contractors and by a reported shortage of skilled tradespeople.
BEIS claimed factors derailing the scheme included Covid19 restrictions on contractors entering homes. But when the committee carried out its own survey of 500 interested parties for its report, it found no evidence of such fears from householders nor from contractors.
Virginia-based ICF Corporation, the holder of around 80 UK government outsourcing contracts, managed the scheme. The Guardian reported its London office includes a former Cabinet Office senior adviser on energy and the environment.
A week before D-BEIS axed the GHG scheme in February, the committee reveals it contacted energy ministry, suggesting measures to rescue the struggling initiative. Officials paid the committee no heed. Now it is seeking answers from energy secretary Kwasi Kwarteng.
The Green Homes Grant was trumpeted as improving up to 600,000 homes. Figures released by D-BEIS last month after it had closed to new applicants showed 123,537 applications for vouchers, with 28,277 issued and only 5,804 installations completed.
The MPs calculate that even if all outstanding applications are granted, the scheme will insulate less than a fifth of the homes targeted.
Chancellor Rishi Sunak dealt the scheme a crippling blow in January, clawing back £1bn in unspent funds intended for private homes, and slashing this year’s allocation to only £320m.
In severely truncated form the GHG lives on, in the shape of monies available only to local housing authorities and social landlords. The MPs fear that narrower focus risks cutting out thousands of smaller contractors unskilled in tendering to councils. Job creation in the supply chain of installers had been a goal of the scheme.
“Simply abandoning a critically important decarbonisation scheme when cracks appeared, sets a poor example in the year we aim to show climate leadership”, EA committee chair Philip Dunne says.
Read the committee’s GHG report here.