Wednesday, 27 April 2011

Action Not Words Needed to Cut Energy Bills and Fuel Poverty

I read with interest in the Evening Post that the Green Party in Reading are planning to campaign on fuel poverty at the elections this year.

I am grateful to them for helping to highlight this important issue and delighted that Green Party activists are backing the work we in the Coalition Administration of Reading Borough Council and Coalition Government are doing on this issue where Labour failed.

Tackling fuel poverty and climate change is a huge, vitally important agenda that all political parties in Reading need to get behind.

But as politicians and community leaders we work hard at this agenda all year round, not just at election time.

Last November, Chris Huhne MP, Lib Dem Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change launched the Green Deal which will create 100,000 new jobs for people working to insulate 3.5 million homes across the country.

However, it is important to get the issue of fuel poverty in perspective.

9 % of families in Reading currently live in fuel poverty compared to the national average which is around 14%.

We need to target resources at people who are hardest hit and help others to improve energy efficency of their homes.

The recently reopened Warm Front scheme will help us do this.

Many of people living in fuel poverty in Reading live in poor quality housing in the private rented sector.

I have led the campaign at local level to improve standards in this area - the home of 25 % of Reading residents.

Labour overlooked private rented housing when they were in government and in control of the Council.

Locally, the Lib Dems have led the green agenda in Reading.

We have successfully campaigned to extend the range of materials that can be recycled at the kerbside and we have pledged in our manifesto to continue to do so.

Under Liberal Democrat control, Reading Borough Council is pioneering new low carbon heating.

Since we took control of the Council in 2010, we have held regular meetings with officers in both the housing and sustainability teams to discuss ways in which fuel poverty in all types of housing can be tackled.

These cross-Council discussions have been the first of their kind and never happened under Labour.

As part of the Council's Decent Homes Programme we are taking steps to increase insulation across Council-owned properties.

We are also investigating bringing in new feed-in tariffs and new more sustainable forms of energy to heat Council homes.

The Council also works closely with landlords in the private sector to promote insulation and energy savings schemes.

All these measures will go towards reducing fuel bills and saving precious energy.

But there is more to do which is why following pressure from the Lib Dems the Council has set up a new housing and sustainability officer group to ensure that there is a green thread running through all housing policies.

Last October the Council agreed the following motion, put forward by the Liberal Democrat and Conservative Groups which gave a very clear signal to residents about our commitment to the environment.

(It replaced a rather feeble motion tabled by a Labour councillor.)

It is just as relevant now as it is then.

"This Council welcomes:

The Coalition Government’s commitment to making renewable energy sources account for over 33GW of new energy production.

The Coalition Government’s removal of the bar that prevented local authorities selling back to the grid the energy they have generated.

This Council notes:
  •  The Council’s commitment to promote green jobs and sustainability across the Council and Borough and to promote the climate change agenda as a high priority.
  • That the number of households in fuel poverty in England rose from 1.2m in 2003 to a projected 4.0m in 2010
  • That Reading schools already have two schools with solar PV, one with solar hot water, two with air source heat pumps, two with ground source heat pumps and one with a wind turbine.
This Council resolves:
  • To provide local leadership on the climate change agenda by:
  • Maximising, wherever possible, the use of renewable energy schemes to generate income across all existing and future council properties and operations.
  • Considering all options across the Council’s housing stock to both generate and conserve energy to reduce fuel poverty.
  • Taking the lead in encouraging local businesses and commercial buildings to embrace renewable energy and energy efficiency schemes.
  • Promoting and assisting local residents, schools and organisations to take advantage of the opportunities available to them to benefit from renewable energy and energy efficiency schemes."
The Coalition Government has set itself the target of being the "greenest government ever".

When it comes to the environment we need to be as ambitious here in Reading.

Lib Dems will continue to work hard to tackle these issues inside and outside the Council and f the Green Party are serious about turning their fine words into action on fuel poverty they need to work with us on this agenda.

1 comment:

  1. The whole concept of Fuel Poverty is nonsense: