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Mon, 28 September 2020

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Exclusive: Government’s green homes plan risks ‘throwing people into the arms of scammers’, MPs warn

Exclusive: Government’s green homes plan risks ‘throwing people into the arms of scammers’, MPs warn

Lib Dems have warned that the scheme could be exploited by rogue traders (PA)

3 min read

MPs have warned the Government that a “rushed” energy-saving scheme could leave homeowners at risk of being exploited by scammers and rogue traders.

The new Green Homes Grant voucher system, announced by Chancellor Rishi Sunak in this month's economic update, gives those eligible up to £5,000 towards improving the energy efficiency of their property.

But the Liberal Democrats have raised concern that the “quick fix vouchers” could be “money thrown down the drain” if profiteers take advantage.

And they suggest that the tight timeframe for the delivery of the programme may not allow builders to prepare for demand and retrain their staff, or for proper surveys to be undertaken. 

The party is now calling on the Government to set out what steps they are taking to ensure gaps in the scheme aren’t exploited at the expense of the general public.

Lib Dem environment spokesperson Wera Hobhouse told PoliticsHome: “Any measure to improve energy efficiency and cut people’s bills is worth taking seriously but – in this case – the Government needs to give more clarity on the fine print. 

“The Green Homes Grant looks like a rushed scheme that risks throwing homeowners into the arms of scammers.

“As things stand, the Government has failed to lay the necessary foundations to transform our homes. 

“To make much needed changes, we must invest in training programmes, launch pilots and build up the expertise. This is crucial if we are to solve the home insulation crisis over the next 10 years.”

“The Government are instead offering quick fix vouchers that risk seeing public money thrown down the drain if profiteers take advantage.”

The intervention echoes the concerns raised by chair of the business select committee, Darren Jones, who has written to ministers urging them to ensure the new scheme guarantees high-quality work. 

In a letter to Minister Kwasi Kwarteng, the Labour MP said he “welcomed” the scheme, but said the Government needed to “ensure that adequate consumer protections are built in from the start”. 

He highlighted “previous energy efficiency schemes” which led to some homeowners receiving “inadequate work from suppliers who failed to meet required standards”.

Elsewhere, industry bodies have complained that launching the grants in September and now allowing backdating has led to a collapse in trade.

According to The Telegraph, companies have branded the scheme “reckless” and warned they may have to re-furlough staff, despite claims by Chancellor Rishi Sunak that the initiative would support 140,000 jobs.

Commenting on the issue in the Commons, Ms Kwarteng said "further detail on eligibility will be announced in due course, before the full launch".

The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy has been contacted for comment. 

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