Fewer tenants get energy-saving help

The Oxford Times: Budget cuts mean less social housing tenants will now have insulation work funded Budget cuts mean less social housing tenants will now have insulation work funded

THE NUMBER of social housing tenants set to benefit from energy-saving insulation work has dropped by 90 per cent.

Changes to how projects are funded means that only 990 homes have been recommended to benefit from home improvements such as insulation and boiler replacements.

A report on fuel poverty put together for Oxfordshire County Council’s health improvement partnership board says that under previous programmes, 9,832 households received energy efficiency measures in a year.

Housing support worker Debbie Hollingsworth, 49, who lives near Kidlington, is on the city council’s housing waiting list.

She said: “During the colder months people really struggle with having to put more money in the meter.

“A lot of people are in private accommodation so they’ve got no control over things like insulation and it is down to their landlord. Even if they say it will be free a lot of landlords cannot be bothered with all the stuff involved.”

The current funding scheme, Energy Companies Obligation (ECO), is an energy efficiency programme introduced last year.

It places legal obligations on the larger energy suppliers to provide energy efficiency measures to customers. The programme can pay for work like boiler replacements and loft and cavity wall insulation in social housing.

But under the ECO scheme, there have only been 990 homes recommended, with the report suggesting that uptake of these recommendations is very low.

The new set-up replaced the Government-funded Community Energy Saving Programme and Carbon Emissions Reduction Target, which both ended in 2012.

City councillor John Tanner, the executive board member for cleaner, greener Oxford, said: “Under this Government it has got tougher and tougher for householders to insulate their homes and that is regrettable.

“What the government has done is said that energy companies have a responsibility to invest money in measures which save carbon dioxide but because of the terms of the obligation in Oxford we find it almost impossible to get hold of that money.”

Tim Nicholson and his wife Joanne, who spent £60,000 converting their 1960s house in Benson Place into a carbon neutral one, say insulating homes can massively reduce bills.

Mr Nicholson said: “My understanding is that there is less funding available and it is a very narrow group of people who will benefit. It is absolutely crazy. Insulating our homes is one of the most positive energy-saving measures that we can do and is relatively cheap.”

A spokesman for the Department for Energy and Climate Change said: “ECO scheme began in January 2013 and under Government’s proposals will continue to run at least until 2017.

“We are committed to maintaining ECO support for the fuel poor at their current ambitious levels.”

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