Construction sector responds to NAO’s Green Homes Grant Voucher Scheme report findings, with calls for lessons to learned for future government green schemes.
The National Audit Office (NAO) has produced its assessment of the Government’s Green Homes Grant Voucher Scheme, following its report into the ill-fated incentive scheme, run by the Department for Business Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS), which was live from September 2020 until an abrupt stop in March 2021.
In a statement the NAO explained the scheme was “delivered to an over-ambitious timetable and was not executed to an acceptable standard, significantly limiting its impact on job creation and carbon reduction.”
The report states BEIS expected the scheme to support 82,500 jobs over six months and enable 600,000 households to save up to £600 on their energy bills, but forecasts that it will ultimately only “eventually support efficiency measures in 47,500 homes and create up to 5,600 jobs over 12 months”, plus it estimates that it will spend just £314 million of the £1.5bn funding available, of which £50.5 million is on administration – more than £1,000 per home upgraded.
The report also points to the poor administration of the scheme which impacted homeowners and installers, saying that “delays” and “over-ambitious” timescales for implementation caused issues and ultimately led to over 3,000 complaints being made to BEIS and the scheme administrator between October 2020 to April 2021: “Many homeowners and installers had a poor experience using the scheme. There were delays issuing vouchers to homeowners and paying installers, causing frustration. Homeowners also found it challenging completing applications, and were often asked for more information, which took time.”
None of this will be news to those working within construction but coming on the back of the failed Green Deal, these findings for the Green Homes Grant Voucher Scheme will still be difficult and frustrating for the sector and homeowners to hear. As James Talman, NFRC Chief Executive, explains, the hope is that these types of problems can be avoided for future schemes: “The National Audit Office’s review of the Green Homes Grant Voucher Scheme is a confirmation of what industry has been saying from the start – the scheme was rushed, overly complicated, and there was too little engagement with key stakeholders.
“What is critical now is that the government learns from the mistakes of the past. There must be a full consultation on any future scheme ahead of it being launched, and the government should work closely with the construction industry to address the lack of capacity in the market through supporting upskilling, training and accreditation.”
The Federation of Master Builders has also stated lessons must be learned and reaffirmed its call for a long-term strategy to green the nation’s homes. Brian Berry, FMB Chief Executive, explained: “Today’s report from the National Audit Office on the performance of the Green Homes Grant scheme is sadly unsurprising in its damning conclusions. Members of the FMB who are local, small builders, ideally placed to deliver green upgrades to people’s homes, found the system overly complex, and of the 200 companies who expressed an interest, just three went on to become accredited. We need the Government to back a long-term retrofit strategy, to give installers confidence to train and certainty that the rug won’t be pulled from under them.”
The NAO report references the need for future schemes to be planned properly with full consultation, stating: “The Department (BEIS) should engage properly with the supplier market for future decarbonisation schemes, and base its planning on a realistic assessment of how long it will take the market to mobilise. The requirements placed on homeowners and installers for such schemes should be tested from the start, with the aim of simplifying administration.”
Gareth Davies, the Head of the NAO, concluded: “The aim to achieve immediate economic stimulus through the Green Homes Grant voucher scheme meant that it was rushed. As a result, its benefits for carbon reduction were significantly reduced and ultimately, it did not create the number of jobs government had hoped for.
“Decarbonising our homes is a key element of the government’s net zero strategy. It is vital that future schemes learn from this experience.”
View the full report here.