Mark Hendrick MP: The failure of a Gov't backed home insulation scheme leaves the poorest most at risk of fuel poverty

Posted On: 
7th November 2018

Labour MP Mark Hendrick says we need a housing policy to improve the housing stock throughout the UK so that we can ensure that all homes are made energy efficient

In my Preston constituency, the failure of a Government-backed energy saving scheme has caused a significant degree of harm to hundreds of residents and their homes. After six years of dogged campaigning, the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy has offered no meaningful assistance to some of the most vulnerable in the society.

The Community Energy Saving Programme (CESP) was created to target low-income areas of Britain and obligated large energy companies to offer energy saving improvement works. The Fishwick ward of Preston is one of the most deprived communities in the country.  The CESP scheme which was taken up in Fishwick involved the installation of insulating external wall cladding and could have offered residents a real chance to improve the energy efficiency of their properties. In reality, the residents were left with homes that are barely habitable and have damp, fungus, mould, wall corrosion, poor drainage, inefficient ventilation and properties that they are unable to sell.

The installation company responsible for the work fell into administration. In the years that followed, there were a growing number of complaints from hundreds of residents in Fishwick on the quality of the workmanship and the safety of their properties. I raised these with the Government and a number of organisations including Ofgem but to no avail. I am now aware that these problems have occurred in other areas of the UK with reports of sub-standard work in similar schemes being made in Wales.

This case in Preston has revealed failures at every level of the process. During the last Labour Government I was the Parliamentary Private Secretary to Margaret Beckett, the then Secretary of State for the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. The Department ran the Warm Front scheme and we ensured that we had vetted contractors who could ensure a certain level of quality.  Even though we had the odd complaint, we did not see anything on the scale of the problems we have seen with CESP. The Government should be investing in new innovation for energy efficient boilers, loft insulation and double glazing but instead focuses on cheap and easy fixes, such as cladding. This gamble has been at the expense of some of the most income-strapped households in Preston and after a six-year saga, lessons need to be learnt from this to ensure that these kinds of failures can never happen again. 

The Government must implement a progressive strategy to improve the housing stock throughout the UK, ensuring that all homes are made energy efficient. We need a housing policy that offers a complete remedy to these terrible problems faced by my constituents and not just easy fixes that leave people in abysmal living conditions.

Sir Mark Hendrick is the Labour MP for Preston