Demand full Government funding now to retrofit homes, making them warmer and ending fuel poverty

More than 300,000 Brummies are currently living in poverty – and many more are at risk of falling into extreme need due to lack of finances. Many of them live in the 60,000 social homes in the city. These need urgently retrofitting to drastically reduce fuel costs and carbon emissions. There are two sources of Government funding for social housing retrofit in 2023.

  1. Home Upgrade Grant for low income residents

The Home Upgrade Grant (HUG) is money which the local council has secured from government, and which low income residents in homes that they either own or rent can then bid for. Private landlords must contribute at least a third of the total cost of the upgrade and social landlords at least half.

Eligible homes will have an Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) ranging from D to G. “HUG funding is exclusively reserved for off-gas grid homes (homes which are not heated using gas, i.e. dwellings that use oil, liquid petroleum gas (LPG), coal, solid fuels, or electricity for heating purposes.)”.

Much of HUG Phase 1 has now been allocated and it ends in March 2023. There seems to be no public information about how much money Birmingham Council has secured from HUG 1, how many applications have been received, and how many were successful.

Councils can now bid for HUG Phase 2 until 27 January 2023, and residents can apply for it from April. It runs till 2025. Up to £700million will be available in England, which would fully fund 65,500 social homes, but since many will be only part-funded the total number retrofitted would be significantly higher, perhaps around 100,000. To put this is context, there are 4.4million social homes in England, so HUG2 would fund just over 2 percent.

  1. Social Housing Decarbonisation Fund for Councils

The Social Housing Decarbonisation Fund (SHDF) Wave 2 is money secured by councils from government to fund their own retrofit programmes. At the Birmingham Cabinet meeting on 8 November 2022 it was agreed that the Council would apply for grant funding of £23.3m, of which £19.9m would support the retrofitting of 2,231 Council homes, for which BCC “would be committed to funding the remaining £129m of the works to enable each property to achieve the required energy efficiency rating of EPC C”. Up to £99m of the £129m would come from the Council’s Housing Revenue Account (HRA), with the remainder from additional Capital Borrowing.

The 2,231 homes would be split into 9 different schemes, consisting of a range of types of properties. The retrofit would “consist of external wall insulation, cavity wall insulation, ventilation, loft insulation and double glazing”. But the grant is capped at £10,000 per property, and it does not include replacement of gas boilers.

There are about 60,000 Council homes in Birmingham. 2,231 represents about 3.7%.

This is a climate emergency – Birmingham must demand urgent retrofit funding in full from Government to end fuel poverty

Birmingham’s current retrofit plans are a drop in the ocean. Only a mass public campaign can put enough pressure on the Government to force it to provide enough funding for retrofit. The leadership of the city council should be leading that campaign.

In the Foreword to the WMCA’s new ‘Levelling Up Growth Prospectus’ (launched on October 3 at a fringe event at the Conservative Party Conference in Birmingham) Cllr Brigid Jones, Deputy Leader of Birmingham City Council and WMCA Portfolio Lead for Levelling Up, says “The Government must lay solid foundations for real recovery with sustainable and fair funding for local government.” “Fair funding” has to include fully funding retrofit to end fuel poverty. But Cllr Jones and Cllr Ian Ward, Birmingham’s leader on the WMCA Board, won’t ever come out publicly to challenge the Tory housing policies of the Mayor.

They should be taking the lead in Birmingham by launching and leading a mass public campaign in Britain’s second city to demand urgent and fully funded measures by Government to end fuel poverty this winter and massively increase the funding now for retrofit. This would gain overwhelming public support in Birmingham and across the West Midlands, pressing other councils to follow suit. What the growing number of climate campaigners want to know is: Why won’t our local Labour Party leaders do it?

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