A group of leading companies including major high street retailers Marks & Spencer and Homebase have called on the government to amend its flagship retrofit scheme so social landlords are not excluded from subsidy to tackle fuel poverty.
Inside Housing can reveal that a heavyweight consortium of would-be green deal providers has written a private letter to climate change minister Greg Barker warning that the amendment, alongside a range of other improvements, is essential if its scheme is to succeed.
Under the £14 billion green deal, households will receive energy-efficiency works at no upfront cost and the government hopes private companies, including those behind the letter, will fund this and recoup costs from households through resulting savings in energy bills.
Currently, landlords won’t have access to the affordable warmth pot of the £1.3 billion energy company obligation subsidy intended to help the estimated 6.3 million households in fuel poverty – even though social tenants are among the most vulnerable and despite the fact they pay for the subsidy through their energy bills.
Signatories from the green deal providers group are thought to include retail giants Marks & Spencer, John Lewis and Homebase alongside social landlords such as 56,000-home Affinity Sutton.
The 22-strong group, which is also made up of other potential green deal providers such as Tesco and Birmingham Council, are understood to have agreed with the recommended change to ECO – although some, such as B&Q did not sign the letter.
The letter also flagged up concerns about the pricing of green deal finance, incentives to make it attractive, the costs of accreditation and burdens of red tape – as well as calling for a wider range of measures available to ECO, improved consumer protection and its simplification.
The letter was written by the UK Green Building Council on behalf of the group to coincide with Wednesday’s green deal consultation deadline.
In its response, the National Housing Federation said it was ‘vital’ social landlords could access affordable warmth funding. It added that 85 per cent of social housing stock could also be left ineligible for ECO subsidy due to the restrictions over eligible measures for the ‘hard to treat’ pot.