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Warm Homes programme delayed until next year, First Minister confirms

30 Nov 2023 4 minute read
The scheme should have been mobilised in November this year.

Emily Price

A Welsh Government scheme which aims to fund energy efficiency improvements to help tackle fuel poverty will be postponed until next year, Mark Drakeford has confirmed.

The new Warm Homes Programme was scheduled to run from November 2023 but during FMQs on Tuesday (November 28), the First Minister said it wouldn’t be implemented until the end of the financial year (April 2024).

During an exchange in the Senedd between Mark Isherwood and Mark Drakeford, the Tory MS asked: “Given that December is now around the corner and the coldest months are fast approaching, there’s growing concern that the new programme will not be implemented until next year.

“When does the First Minister therefore now expect the new Warm Homes Programme to be implemented, and will he provide an update accordingly?”

Replacement

Mr Drakeford replied: “I do expect the Warm Homes Programme to be implemented by the end of this financial year.

“The tender documents are ready. In the meantime, we have extended existing arrangements to tide us over until the new programme can be implemented.”

There is already a current Warm Homes Programme in place but it is limited by the regulations and only permits one application per household.

Domestic energy efficiency measures available through the current scheme will be carried carried through to a newer programme.

But the Welsh Government intends to update the regulations to allow for multiple applications, meaning that if a household supported by a previous scheme remains in fuel poverty and meets the eligibility criteria – they may apply for additional support.

Letters

In a letter obtained by Nation.Cymru to the Climate Change, Environment and Infrastructure (CCEI) Committee in August this year, government minister Julie James stated that mobilisation of the scheme “starts end of November”.

This was confirmed in another letter from Julie James MS to Jenny Rathbone MS, dated 3 August 2023 and shared in Equality and Social Justice Committee on 11 September 2023.

In a separate letter to Plaid Cymru Climate Change spokesperson Delyth Jewell MS, Minister for Social Justice Jane Hutt said the Welsh Government were currently procuring for the scheme.

98% of households on lower incomes in Wales were predicted to be in fuel poverty following the price cap increase of April 2022.

Plaid Cymru said it was “unforgivable” that the Welsh Government has not mobilised the programme despite repeated assurances that this would be in place before the end of this month.

Plaid Cymru spokesperson for social justice and equalities, Sioned Williams MS said: “When it comes to tackling fuel poverty, we’re talking about helping those in extreme poverty – those who cannot afford to keep their home warm during the coldest months.

“It’s unforgiveable that, as a cold snap creeps across the UK, the government has still not mobilised its Warm Homes Programme, despite repeated assurances that this would be in place before the end of November.

“Not only is this a year later than originally promised, but there are also now concerns that this could be delayed until spring 2024.

“What’s worse is that the Warm Homes Programme has already been budgeted for – this isn’t a matter of finding the cash, it’s the government dragging its feet while those who are in severe fuel poverty, living in the poorest households and residing in the least fuel-efficient homes, are left out in the cold.”

“The Labour Welsh Government must implement the new Warm Homes Programme with urgency to support low income households in making their homes more energy efficient this winter.

A Welsh Government spokesperson said: “We are finalising the procurement of our new Warm Homes scheme with a view to awarding the contract and starting work this year.

“To ensure continuity of support over the winter we have extended our Nest scheme to the end of March 2024.

“We are committed to supporting low income households living homes that are not energy efficient.

“In 2022/23 we invested £26.9m through our Nest scheme that provided energy saving advice to 22,000 households through our freephone advice service.

“Our home energy improvement package provided support to more than 4,000 eligible households with modelled average bill savings of £422 per year.”


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