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The UK government must clear up the mess around botched Green Deal installations

4 min read

Paisley and Renfrewshire North SNP MP Gavin Newlands writes ahead of his Westminster Hall debate on 'Home Energy and Lifestyle Management Systems and the Green Deal'.

During the cold winter months, millions across the UK struggle as fuel poverty begins to bite. For too many this means a choice between feeding the family or turning on the heating, a choice that no one should have to make. 

Often it is those that find themselves in leaky, uninsulated, and energy inefficient homes that can’t afford their heating. Thanks to the UK Government’s brutal and ideological austerity measures, warm homes are becoming further and further out of reach. National Energy Action have found that around 3.5 million homes in the UK are in Fuel Poverty. This is absolutely unacceptable in 2018.

The UK Government launched its Green Deal policy in 2013, aimed at tackling the UK’s growing deficiency in fuel inefficient housing. The scheme gave fuel poor households access to finance to improve their homes and sought to greater energy efficiency and reduce bills. Yet the policy has failed dramatically. A good idea in theory that has been devastating in practice.

The Green Deal has a supposedly in-built ‘Golden Rule’ that states that the cost of the loan should never exceed the savings that would be made. Consumers were supposed to receive home improvements that were effectively free once offset by savings. However, because of an ill-conceived framework and disastrous implementation, families are now paying more with no savings, and in many cases, footing the bill for fraudulent behaviour. 

Through their incompetence, the UK Government has in some cases allowed unscrupulous operators to prey on vulnerable families who ultimately just want to be able to go back to a warm home every day. When a consumer sees a UK Government logo on paperwork, they do not expect to get scammed. That’s why the UK Government must tell us why this was allowed to happen. That’s why they must also now act to provide immediate financial relief for those that have been affected. 

Chief among those using questionable tactics was HELMS, which used aggressive sales strategies to sell solar panels to homes regardless of whether they needed them or not. In my constituency of Paisley and Renfrewshire North, which has the highest number of HELMS installations in Scotland, I’ve heard horror stories of Salesmen overstaying their welcome in homes, blatantly falsifying figures and signatures, using misleading documentation, and quite frankly lying to the poor, elderly, and vulnerable. 

This was a UK Government initiative and was sold as such. HELMS was the leading accredited provider of these Green Deal services. How can the government now ignore the pain caused by HELMS?

What is the point in UK Government accreditation if the UK Government are nowhere to be seen when fraud and violations occur?
Who is responsible for cleaning up this mess?

This must be debated in the chamber so that these questions can be answered; as up until the now the UK Government had dodged accountability at every single turn. When I wrote to the Secretary of State for Business, Energy, and Industrial Strategy, I received an absolute non-answer that was nothing short of an abdication of duty. Last week I asked the Minister of State for Energy and Clean Growth if there were any plans at all to provide financial assistance, I received yet more waffle. Although I appreciate the offer to meet with me to discuss this issue.

Yet, for the sake of accountability, it is imperative that the dreadful experiences had by Consumers are aired publicly and we receive public answers. With their pitiful response to this issue the UK Government has attempted to wash their hands of all responsibility for this mess, we cannot let this happen and must push to ensure they act to provide redress and financial assistance to those who have been affected as a step in repairing the damage that their incompetence has caused.

Gavin Newlands is the SNP MP for Paisley and Renfrewshire North

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