Call for Welsh Government to speed up scheme which would ‘take 135 years’ to insulate every house
As crippling energy bills loom this winter the Liberal Democrats have called on the Welsh Government to speed up their home insulation scheme, saying that at the current rate it would take them 135 years to insulate every fuel-poor household.
Welsh Liberal Democrat leader Jane Dodds said that despite the Welsh Government’s intentions only a “tiny fraction” of those living in fuel poverty had some far been helped by the Welsh Government Warm Homes scheme (known as Nest) launched in 2011.
The Welsh Government’s own estimates suggest that as of April 2022, 614,000 households are in fuel poverty including 115,000 in extreme fuel poverty.
A Welsh Liberal Democrat analysis of the Nest scheme’s annual statements showed that the number of households receiving support under the scheme had declined from 5,500 in 2016/17 to 4,559 in 2020/21.
At the 2016/17 rate it would take 111.6 years to insulate every household. At the 2020/21 rate it would take 134.7 years, they said.
Further analysis of the figures showed that of those benefitting from home improvements from the scheme in 2020/21, almost 50% were described as not living in fuel poverty, suggesting the scheme is not being targeted effectively.
Responding to the low figures, Jane Dodds MS said: “Only a tiny fraction of the number of households who are struggling with their fuel bills have been supported by this government. If the current rate of progress is maintained it will take the Welsh Labour Government 135 years to insulate every household that is in fuel poverty.
“The snail’s pace this scheme has advanced at illustrates the Labour’s frightening incompetence when it comes to tackling fuel poverty across Wales, and how their inaction has left Wales extremely vulnerable to the latest price rises.
“Bills will continue to soar and families will continue to suffer unless more support is made available to those in need. Cutting energy bills through improving energy efficiency will not only lessen the burden on household finances, it will be good for the planet and bad for Vladimir Putin too.
“The Government need to put a rocket under the Welsh Government Warm Homes scheme.
“Unlike Labour, the Welsh Liberal Democrats are focused on delivering robust and practical solutions. That means implementing an emergency nationwide home insulation programme and introducing green upgrades to homes.
“We are also pressing the UK government to cancel this year’s energy price rise, introduce a windfall tax on the profits of oil and gas producers and help households to weather the crisis.”
On Tuesday Wales’ Economy Minister, Vaughan Gething, demanded the UK Government takes immediate action to reduce the growing cost of energy and fuel on businesses across Wales.
Wales’ First Minister Mark Drakeford has already criticised the UK Government’s “failure to address this crisis”, calling for an emergency budget to raise windfall taxes on energy companies’ profits and freeze prices.
On Wednesday, Mr Gething convened an urgent meeting with Welsh business representatives to hear directly about the pressures they are facing.
“The cost of living crisis engulfing the UK is having a significant impact on families across the country,” the minister said.
“We’re also facing a cost of business crisis, with businesses across Wales facing increasingly unbearable pressures because of soaring energy and fuel bills.
“Our businesses are the lifeblood of our communities. They provide the jobs people rely on for their livelihoods. As Wales’ Economy Minister, my immediate priority is to do what I can to protect our economy and the people who work within it.
“That’s why I am demanding that the UK Government steps up and takes immediate action now, by using the powers only they have at their disposal to intervene in this crisis.
“They must bring forward measures to reduce inflation and provide the significant additional help people and businesses need.
“Unless they act now, they risk inflicting significant harm on the Welsh economy. This cannot be allowed to happen.”
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