The Green Homes Grant voucher scheme was unveiled by chancellor Rishi Sunak last summer, along with a £1 billion pledge to retrofit schools and hospitals.
The vouchers meant homeowners could upgrade properties with energy-saving retrofit work – such as installation of insulation or double-glazed windows – and the government would pay at least two-thirds of the cost.
But the grant reached just 10 per cent of the 600,000 homes the chancellor promised it would help improve.
Last week the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee published a report saying the Green Homes Grant was poorly implemented, lacked long-term vision and may have been harmful to the construction sector.
Problems included fears by customers that contractors would spread coronavirus, a shortage of contractors able to carry out upgrades, builders overcharging for installation work, and stringent checks from government on homeowner spending – leading to delayed payment to businesses.
The government has said £300 million previously allocated for the Green Homes Grant will now be transferred to councils to run local energy efficiency programmes targeting lower-income households.
Julie Hirigoyen, chief executive of the UK Green Building Council, said: ‘Slashing more than £1 billion in funding for energy efficiency is an absolute travesty […] and has created yet another roadblock for decarbonising the country’s 29 million homes.
‘We have been left speechless by this news, which comes just days after the Environmental Audit Committee sent a clear message to government that if we are to meet our legally binding target to be net zero carbon by 2050, urgent action is needed to improve energy efficiency of homes this decade.’
She added: ‘From start to finish the scheme has been beset by problems of the government’s own making – but these should have been fixed, not used to justify its scrapping. In the year of the UK hosting COP26, this is not the sort of example we wanted to be setting for the world – a lesson in precisely how not to do policy making in this vital sector.
‘The government is now emphasising the role of local authorities in delivering retrofit and there is absolutely no doubt that they have a key role to play. But they need the certainty of a national retrofit strategy within which to operate locally, and they need to be given financial support and the freedom to innovate.
Retrofit has a clear role to play in driving a green recovery
‘Retrofit has a clear role to play in both levelling-up and driving a green recovery at the local level, but this requires a genuine partnership approach.’
RIBA president Alan Jones said he was ‘disappointed’ that the Green Homes Grant had been scrapped without pledges for ‘long-term energy efficiency investment’.
He said: ‘While the scheme was clearly mismanaged, we must bring an end to this stop-start cycle of second-rate retrofitting policy. We need a comprehensive National Retrofit Strategy with adequate funding and clear roadmap for action. I hope that there will be lessons learned from this debacle.
‘The additional funding pledged today and the focus on low-income homes must be welcomed, but I’m concerned the government fails to grasp the scale of the problem – at least 19 million UK homes requiring retrofitting.’
We must bring an end to this stop-start cycle of second-rate retrofitting policy
He added: ‘We’re not only calling for more money; policymakers must also provide incentives for those “able to pay” to update their own homes. By reforming property taxes such as stamp duty and council tax, the government can help accelerate this urgent programme.’