Peer calls for national home insulation programme to cut energy bills modelled on Kirklees scheme

Former Kirklees Council leader Kath Pinnock has called for a new national home insulation scheme to tackle rising energy bills.

When she was council leader in the mid-2000s, Kirklees Council ran an award-winning programme called the Warm Zone Scheme which saw every household in the area provided with free loft and cavity wall insulation.

The Liberal Democrat peer, who is still a councillor in Kirklees, said similar work nationally would have huge benefits - particularly in Yorkshire where homes are among some of the worst-insulated in the country.

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She said the work in Kirklees followed a report which found more people were dying in the area in winter due to having cold homes.

Baroness Kath Pinnock says more needs to be done about making homes energy-efficient.

“Out of that came the Warm Zone Scheme which provided free loft insulation and where possible cavity wall insulation to every property in Kirklees, regardless of whether it was rented or homeowned or a leasehold,” she said.

"Whatever it was, people had the option. One of the outcomes was it reduced carbon emissions hugely, it reduced people’s energy bills. People were able to afford to heat their homes and it provided jobs for local people. It took three to four years to do the whole of Kirklees.

“The way we funded it in Kirklees was partly the council paid, but the biggest source of funding was from the energy companies who were making at the time, quite high profits and the government had asked them to fund energy saving schemes.

“We could do that again and we could do it across the country. It has such huge benefits in reducing carbon and also reducing people’s heating bills.

“In Yorkshire, we have some of the worst-insulated homes in the country and some of the worst weather. That combination is not good, so why not have a big scheme to insulate homes across the country?”

In last week’s Spring Statement, Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced that the five per cent VAT rate on having energy-saving materials like solar panels, heat pumps and insulation installed is being cut to zero.

But in December, the Government was strongly criticised over the “slam dunk fail” of its Green Homes Grant scheme.

The Public Accounts Committee said low take up of the scheme, offering up to £10,000 in funding to help pay for energy efficiency measures, was down to an “overly complex” with homeowners expected to identify a certified installer and apply for vouchers with the installer receiving the grant funding once they had fitted the measure.

By August 2021, more than half of the applications for funding had been rejected or withdrawn.

The Government’s recent Heat and Buildings Strategy set out a package of measures to retrofit the nation's buildings.

In addition this the Government has announced more than £3.9 billion of new funding for decarbonising heat and buildings. This will fund the next three years of investment through the Social Housing Decarbonisation Fund, the Home Upgrade Grant scheme, the Boiler Upgrade Scheme and the Heat Networks Transformation Programme.

A Government spokesperson said: “We recognise the pressures people are facing with the cost of living, which is why we have set out a generous £21bn package of support, and the energy price cap continues to insulate millions of customers from volatile global gas prices.

“We are also accelerating our progress in upgrading the energy efficiency of England’s homes, investing over £6.6bn billion to decarbonise homes and buildings and bringing in higher minimum performance standards to ensure all homes meet EPC Band C by 2035.”

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