I am pleased about the introduction of a new pilot scheme that aims to help people increase energy efficiency in their homes.

The government’s ‘Green Deal’ lets people make improvements to their homes without incurring the upfront costs of such work, and £2.59 million has been made available to the Leeds City Region to fund a ‘demonstrator’ scheme, ‘Green Deal Go Early’.

Now Leeds City Council has applied for £1.28m of this funding to deliver energy improvement grants to public and private sector housing in deprived, hard to treat areas. There will also be 0% loans available to less deprived private sector properties.  The majority of the funding will be used to provide external wall insulation to suitable properties.

I’m pleased that the Council is looking to take advantage of this excellent government initiative. It has the potential to make a huge difference to local communities and really get to grips with the problem of fuel poverty.

As Chair of the Scrutiny, Safer and Stronger Communities Board, I headed an inquiry into Fuel Poverty back in April.  We found that the most distinctive feature of fuel poverty was the close relationship between the price of fuel, and the way householders ration their heat. 

Consumers have little control over what they pay for their fuel, other than to shop around.   As a Council, however, we can help them control their consumption, by providing well insulated, energy efficient properties.

My only reservation is that the pilot scheme offers 0% loan rates over a 10 year period.   It is anticipated that the actual Green Deal will charge market rate interest on loans.  This could increase the term of the loan dramatically if it is to meet the Green Deal golden rule.   We must ensure this does not deter people from taking part in the  scheme.

The principle of the Green Deal remains the same, that the monthly cost of repaying any loan must not be more than the savings achieved on utility bills, so even private householders are in a “win-win” situation, and certainly under the pilot scheme, an offer of 0% interest is a gift horse that needs to be harnessed.