The National Federation of Builders (NFB) is disappointed that the government is closing applications for the Green Homes Grant tomorrow (31 March).
Green Homes Grants were to help people make their existing homes more energy efficient by improving insulation and reducing draughts. They had been extended to the end of March next year, purportedly in response to the Covid-19 pandemic, although to get a Green Homes Grant the work had to be carried out by an installer registered with the government’s TrustMark scheme (you can find companies near you that have signed up to it on the TrustMark’s website, www.trustmark.org.uk/find-a-tradesperson). Not many installers signed up to it, possibly due to a reluctance to get involved in any more paperwork or bureaucracy. In order to sign up you had to belong to the Microgeneration Certification Scheme or hold Publicly Accessible Standards certification to PAS 30 or 35, depending on the kind of work you do.
Because of the poor take up, the government allowed builders that were registered to sub-contract work to tradespeople who were not registered in order to get wider coverage. Now it has scrapped the scheme altogether.
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.”
Before the scheme was launched the NFB repeatedly warned civil servants about issues it said would plague the successful implementation of it, and was advised that concerns should be brought up after the scheme began. Yet even in the final weeks, NFB’s solutions to the failings of the Green Homes Grant were ignored.
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 the retrofitting policy. This is why NFB is backing the National Retrofit Strategy (NRS).
The NRS still requires a retrofit industry to be established because a major flaw of the Green Homes Grant was that too few companies were accredited to do the insulation and air tightening works that made a move to electric energy and heat pump technology worthwhile.
NFB says the Government must therefore remove the barriers to entry it set through the Green Homes Grant and allow companies doing internationally accredited retrofit works to win work while they meet the new UK PAS2035 standard.
Rico Wojtulewicz, head of housing and planning policy at the NFB, and who sits on the Construction Leadership Council (CLC) Repair, Maintenance & 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 9million 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.”