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No, Prime Minister

A good speech isn’t one where we can prove he’s telling the truth. It’s one in which nobody else can prove he’s lying.

I’m cheating a bit with this week’s blog. By which I mean that someone else has written most of it.

Not for any reasons of laziness or time-pressures, rather it’s because, while I could paraphrase it, I think it sounds better coming from the person whose livelihood has been threatened by the buggering up – s’cuse my French – of the Green Deal.

An Open Letter to the Prime Minister appears in this month’s Housing Specification online. It is written by Peter Thom, managing director of Green Heat Ltd. It says everything that I have always said about the Green Deal. And it says it, not from the point of view of a journalist, cynical by nature, but from someone for whom the Green Deal should have worked.

Thom set the company up in 1990 with “the specific purpose of raising awareness of energy efficiency for the long term benefit of householders and the importance for future generations of conserving the Earth’s resources”.

Just the sort of company that the Green Deal, you would have thought, was designed to promote and support. Yeah right.

Over to Peter Thom: “Dear Prime Minister,

It is with regret that I have to inform you that my company, Green Heat Ltd, will uncouple from the Green Deal as a Green Deal Heating Installer today, the second anniversary of the launch of this flagship initiative.

I have been one of the greatest supporters of this scheme and we have tried very hard to make it work over the past two years. I have raised my concerns at the Green Deal Forums, which I was invited to be a member of as a small heating installer, but this Green Deal field is still being ploughed when it is full of boulders.

There appears to be a reluctance to make any real changes to the scheme that would enable small companies like mine to engage viably and economically.

The original scheme was going to be open to all Gas-Safe registered installers without the need for the added costs of PAS2030 for management systems, additional accreditation, inspections and surveillance. This was agreed with industry, as we are already highly regulated with a requirement to undertake costly training and examination every five.

Thom then points out that the goal posts changed, with the Green Deal Oversight and Registration Body deciding that, after all, Gas-Safe accreditation was not sufficient and all installers had to follow PAS2030, together with all the costs and bureaucracy that go with it. Not only this, but accreditation then required an all-day inspection of the company’s PAS2030 system and an on-site inspection of a boiler installation. To be repeated annually.

“Your DECC then agreed to change the scheme and the Green Deal Home Improvement Fund was launched on 9th June 2014. Although this was open to small installers and included a £1000 grant for new mains gas boilers, consumers could only qualify for the grant providing a second measure was installed, such as a flue gas heat recovery unit (FGHR). Many did not require a second measure, leaving them ‘unhelped’.

“On 22nd July DECC decided to remove FGHR from the scheme; the scheme then abruptly ended two days later. Although we managed to secure some funding for our customers, we also had to deal with large numbers of disgruntled clients who felt they had been misled by your Government.

“Following a consultation period with Industry, the second phase of the GDHIF was launched on 10th December and closed the day after for solid wall insulation. This left just £6 million available for other measures for the whole of England and Wales.

“Sadly, the input into the consultation from industry appears to have been ignored. With Flue Gas Heat Recovery being removed from the scheme and LPG and oil boilers still not included, the help for consumers seems to have been stripped away. With fuel poverty still a major problem in this country – particularly among those dependent on fuel not supplied from the mains gas network – these moves are failing to deliver the support to those the scheme set out to help. More and more people are being left disappointed, disillusioned, out of pocket and ultimately, let down.

“The result is that even the GDHIF has become unworkable. It creates more phone calls of complaints from the public about how the scheme is unhelpful and misleading.”

Thom finishes his letter by saying that he does not want the good reputation of his company to be tarnished anymore by the failures of the Green Deal. “This, coupled with the frustration of not being able to provide the help and improvements customers believe they will be funded for, is why we have decided to uncouple from today,” he says.

” Removing all the red tape and added costs so small installers can engage with the Green Deal fully, without any additional cost or time burden, is key to making this work – for everyone.

Then and only then, will the true value of the Green Deal be realised by those who should benefit from it most, the customer and of course, the environment.”

It’s a brilliant letter and it sets out exactly what is wrong with the whole way the Green Deal was conceived and implemented. Of course Thom is writing mainly from the point of view of the heating side of the industry, but I can imagine just such a letter being written by the md of an insulation contractor.

In three months we might have a change of focus with a change of government or we might not. But whatever happens, surely the Green Deal can’t survive in its current state can it?

Check out the full text of Peter Thom’s letter in Housing Specification

About Fiona Russell-Horne

Fiona Russell-Horne
Group Managing Editor across the BMJ portfolio.

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