Welsh Government confirms £30m programme aimed at tackling fuel poverty

By Chris Haines, ICNN Senedd reporter

https://haleheatingandrenewables.co.uk/

 

The Welsh Government confirmed a new £30m programme aimed at tackling fuel poverty will not be in place until after winter ends.

Julie James, Wales’ climate change minister, told the Senedd the new Warm Homes programme will go live on April 1, 2024 – a year later than expected.

She said advice will be provided by Energy Saving Trust while British Gas will install home improvements, and assurance services will be provided by Pennington Choices.

Ms James warned that Wales has some of the oldest and least energy efficient homes in Europe, with the cost-of-living crisis and energy prices pushing people into fuel poverty.

She said the scheme will prioritise low-carbon technologies and a low-income threshold for support will be introduced, rather than relying solely on means-tested benefits.

However, opposition MSs denounced the Welsh Government for failing to implement the programme with urgency in time for this winter.

‘Frightening’

Mabon ap Gwynfor, Plaid Cymru’s shadow housing minister, criticised delays, warning that cold and inefficient homes kill almost 300 people a year in Wales.

He said: “It’s extremely concerning that the [Welsh] Government failed to implement the Warm Homes programme before the end of November despite the pledges made, leaving many vulnerable households in the cold.”

“I’ve noted the frightening statistics many times in the past, but almost 300 people die in Wales because of cold every year. This is shocking.

“Indeed, some 30% of additional winter deaths are related to living in cold properties.”

The Dwyfor Meirionnydd MS said 31% of people went without heating in the three months to January, with Citizens Advice reporting a record number of people seeking fuel vouchers.

Targets

Mark Isherwood, for the Conservatives, echoed concerns about delays and called for targets to be set on fuel poverty to hold the Welsh Government accountable.

The North Wales MS told the chamber a tender document outlined that work will be undertaken on 11,500 properties over seven years.

He said: “Based on these figures, it would take 130 years to improve the energy efficiency of up to 217,700 lower income households currently estimated to be in fuel poverty.”

Backing Citizens Advice Cymru’s call for an awareness campaign, he warned that take-up of some Welsh Government grants and schemes is not as high as it could be.

Mr Isherwood also raised Care & Repair Cymru’s concerns that the new programme does not cover enabling works, so some homes in a poor state of repair may not benefit.

He said: “This means that older home owners – in particular on a low income – will continue to live in homes that are energy inefficient, cold and more expensive to heat.”

‘Procurement hurdles’

Ms James explained surveys will be carried out and homes retrofitted accordingly, saying: “There’s no point in putting an air-source heat pump into a house that leaks like a sieve.”

During the statement on March 12, she stressed that the Nest programme, which offers free energy saving advice to households, has been running over this winter.

Ms James admitted she would have liked to have rolled out the new Warm Homes programme quicker as she blamed procurement hurdles.

Jenny Rathbone, a Labour backbencher who represents Cardiff Central, backed the minister’s three-pronged “no wrong door” approach.

Responding to calls for fuel poverty targets, which were echoed by Plaid Cymru’s Sioned Williams, Ms James suggested milestones could be revisited in 12 months.

She said: “We will then have much better data to be able to set smart targets, as they’re called, so ones that are much more likely to be achievable and stretching.”

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