Wednesday, 15 June 2011

A Green Deal for Reading: but will Labour flunk it?

Andrew Stunell MP, Lib Dem Minister for Local Government who visited Reading a couple of month ago was right to highlight the fact that 40% of carbon emissions each year are generated by existing buildings.

The Government's Green Deal - a key plank of the Lib Dem General Election Manifesto of 2010 is the first major step towards tackling fuel poverty and cutting harmful carbon emissions in housing across all sectors by improving energy by any British government and no amount of carping by Labour politicians makes up for their abysmal lack of action in this area.

I find it deeply depressing that, less than a month into her new job, that the new Labour Lead Member for Housing is already preparing excuses as to why things can't happen (to cover up her own inaction) rather than leading on this agenda.

No scheme of this scale is likely to be 100% perfect but rather than whingeing it is up to councillors and councils to make the best of what is available and champion opportunities for local residents and businesses presented by the Green Deal , not sit back and wait for government handouts.

When we ran the Council we led the agenda and didn't delegate thinking about solutions to Council officers.

Visitors to the Council tell me that the new administration lacks ambition in this area. This is very bad news for residents.

Those of us keen to do something about carbon emissions and housing waited 13 years for the last Labour government to make progress on this agenda and they comprehensively failed.

Somehow I do not think this project would have survived Alistair Darling's planned cuts to public spending (£40bn) given we know that Ed Balls and others failed to commit to carbon reduction targets during the Coalition negotiations.

Enough about politics - what is the Green Deal?
  • The Green Deal will become available in 2012 will help householders improve the energy efficiency of their homes at no upfront cost.
  • By allowing them to pay for green home improvements over time rather than upfront, through the savings in energy bills, it will remove one of the biggest barriers they currently face to retrofitting - being able to afford the initial investment.
  • Feed-in Tariffs are available to support homes in generating their own renewable electricity, and support for renewable heat will be available for homes.
  • Looking to the future, the Government's policy on Zero Carbon means that from 2016, new homes will need to be built to a zero carbon standard (and all non-domestic buildings from 2019).
The Coalition administration of Reading Borough Council set out a ambitious vision on the green agenda including in relation to housing.

From what I hear Labour's silo mentality has already kicked in with officers firmly back in the driving seat.

We made it clear tackling climate change was everybody's business in the Council and we will continue to campaign for residents in Reading to realise the full benefits of all the Green Deal has to offer.

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