The scheme that will see billions of pounds of government and private money feed into measures that aim to create jobs and improve the energy efficiency of homes is just a few weeks away from its proposed launch date.
It’s my understanding that homeowners in England will be able to start applying for vouchers from the 30 September and soon after will be able to instruct approved contractors. We also understand that all the money announced by the Chancellor must be spent by the 31 March 2021.
Can we afford to be this rigid?
We very much hope that the end date will be extended by the government. To remain rigid with this date risks so much. The scheme will create employment (its primary objective) and it can deliver energy savings while also acting as a catalyst to the establishment of a far more capable retrofit and energy performance sector.
Our fear however, is that if the rigid backstop remains, it will create a charter for rushed and poor quality work, corner cutting and further insecurity that rather than promoting investment in skilled people, expensive equipment and robust logistics, will stifle it.
Two things we could do to improve the Green Homes Grant
So what could we do? From my perspective, the two things the government could do tomorrow to improve the proposed scheme, save millions and prevent a further erosion of people long term confidence in retrofit insulation are to:
- Relax the March 2021 backstop for the redemption of vouchers. This would allow time to plan and programme work and allow weather sensitive operations to be completed after that date. By all means, retain the 31 March 2021 as the cut off date for ordering work, but relax it in relation to completion.
- Let us know that more funds will follow if we get things right – without a break. If the scheme stops on the 31 March 2021 then everyone employed to deliver on it faces the sack. All the skills and experience gained in the experiment will potentially be lost. Unless companies know they have a long term future, why would they invest in the delivery of real quality?
Yes…we know. It needs a deadline of sorts!
Sure the scheme needs deadlines and certainly make it clear that unless we do things right the money will stop. But to let people/contractors think that this is a short sharp injection of cash that won’t even last until Easter is no way to assure the development of a responsible, longsighted and quality driven specialist contracting sector. We need the contractors that do the work in October to be around for twenty years or more. We need to know they will be held responsible for the work they deliver! Putting all this responsibility onto the warranty providers and expecting all to be well is just wrong!
PCA contractor members are all registered with TrustMark and though we do not operate a scheme for retrofit insulation, their role in delivering quality energy saving measures should not be overlooked. We were delighted to see on the Government’s website that the cost of both structural repairs and damp investigation will be covered by the green homes grant scheme.
Let’s not repeat the mistakes of the past
Applying insulation to, on or within buildings with an underlying defect such as dampness, mould, woodworm and timber decay is madness. Structural issues like the condition of cavity ties or cracks caused by movement will not be fixed by covering them up. It is essential that a building is in good shape before it’s insulated. If it’s not, the underlying issues will cause deterioration and the presence of the insulation will complicate and add significant costs of repairs that will become inevitable. These extra costs will not be covered by a grant and they won’t be covered under any warranty that is issued by the insulator either.
So please, before you start any retrofit insulation work – get the building checked out. Ensure the fabric of the property is in good condition and that any repairs that are necessary are undertaken before the insulators arrive and hide, for a short while, the building’s secrets.
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