A scheme providing homeowners with vouchers up to £5,000 to improve their insulation will begin in September, chancellor Rishi Sunak has announced in his Summer Statement.
Mr Sunak, speaking in the House of Commons on Wednesday, spoke of the importance of ensuring a “green recovery” as the UK economy strives to bounce back from the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.
The Green Homes Grant scheme will provide homeowners with up to £5,000 to make energy-efficient home improvements such as insulation, and installing new, energy efficient boilers. The scheme comprises a £2bn pledge as part of a £3bn “green” fund to help cut carbon emissions.
Reaction to the Insulation Vouchers
While the proposal, when reported earlier this week, was received warmly, many shared fears about how this plan would be executed, with some industry experts harbouring fears that the scheme could yet exacerbate the problems facing households.
Architect Paul Testa from Paul Testa Architecture and contributor to Homebuilding & Renovating magazine, suggested the vouchers could “lock in poor performance for longer” because it could force homeowners to opt for the cheapest options.
And it is currently unclear how the scheme will be run to ensure that homeowners receive the best possible service.
Mike Fairman, CEO of Checkatrade, spoke of the importance of hiring experienced and vetted traders to carry out home improvement projects.
“We welcome this move from the government to help bolster the trade economy, through the promotion of energy saving home improvements. However, homeowners should be wary of cowboy builders and traders who don’t have adequate experience, who will be looking to profit off this initiative,” said Fairman.
'Step in the Right Direction'
Angela McGinlay, managing director at heating and climate control systems provider Daikin UK, said of the announcement: “Today is a step in the right direction. It’s good to see homes at the heart of this new eco-package.
"New incentives will lead more UK homeowners to explore renewable, green alternatives to fossil fuel heating and ensure technologies such as heat pumps are rightly recognised as part of the mainstream solution to decarbonising our built environment.
“But if the government is to truly live up to its rhetoric of ‘bouncing back better’ then it will need to go much further. We’ll be looking for more come the autumn statement.”
The Federation of Master Builders (FMB) also hopes to see more from the government in the Autumn Budget.
Brian Berry, chief executive of the FMB, said: “Grant-funded vouchers are a step in the right direction to launching the retrofit market, and supporting consumers to build with confidence after the pandemic. We hope at the Autumn Budget the chancellor will bring forward the rest of the £9.2bn manifesto commitment, and support the development of private finance initiatives that will ensure the market grows in a sustainable way.”
What Other Measures Were Announced?
Mr Sunak also confirmed that a stamp duty holiday would be introduced immediately until 31 March 2021. The move will exempt the first £500,000 of all property sales from the tax.
A cut on VAT will also be applied on tourism and hospitality related activities from 20% to 5% for six months. However, despite mounting pressure on the government to cut VAT on retrofits, Mr Sunak did not confirm this measure in the Summer Statement.
Berry added: “The Chancellor has demonstrated his willingness to introduce targeted, temporary cuts in VAT. We hope he will retain, as a possibility, a cut to 5% for home improvement works to further boost demand.”
Mr Sunak will next provide an update on the UK economy when he presents the Autumn Budget in October.
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