Tory ministers have been slammed for quietly scrapping a voucher scheme for people in England to upgrade their homes.
New applications for the Green Homes Grant will shut at 5pm this coming Wednesday, March 31 – just four days after a government announcement.
The scheme allowed homeowners to claim £5,000 vouchers to make their home more energy efficient – including insulation, draught-proofing, double-glazing and doors.
But it has been beset by controversy after its £2bn of funding in 2020/21 was slashed back to £320m in 2021/22.
Sources admitted there had been “delivery challenges” with the Grant, including that it had been harder to install new insulation during Covid. Greenpeace has branded the handling of the grant “shambolic”.
When the Budget made no pledge to extend it earlier this month, sources insisted existing commitments had not been removed.
But the government clarified last night, part-way down a press release, that the scheme will close to new entrants this week.
The press release was enthusiastically titled: “Government boosts energy efficiency spending to £1.3 billion with extra funding for green homes.”
Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng announced an extra £300 million will be invested in energy-saving upgrades for homes and low carbon heating in England.
But his department also said that the green homes grant voucher scheme launched last year will close on Wednesday.
Environmentalists accused ministers of “going in the wrong direction” on the climate crisis after the decision.
Greenpeace UK head of climate Kate Blagojevic said: “The green homes grant was the Government’s flagship scheme to ‘build back greener’ but after a shambolic rollout it has officially now been scrapped.
“The biggest hole in England’s energy efficiency is private households and you can’t ‘boost’ the situation with a smaller pot of money.
“The Government is plain wrong to try and frame it as such.”
Emma Pinchbeck, the chief executive of industry representative Energy UK, said there had been “real enthusiasm” from the public for the scheme, but “scrapping it before it got off the ground will undermine trust”.
“Secondly, £300 million is not enough to close the gap with the Government’s own net zero target,” she added.
Labour accused the Government of “staggering ineptitude”.
Shadow climate change minister Matthew Pennycook said: “The funding announced today doesn’t even come close to plugging the investment gap created by the Government’s decision to slash more than £1 billion from its green homes grant scheme and then scrap it altogether.”
Mr Kwarteng had argued that the funding “boost” will mean more houses in England will be able to get “vital” grants through local authorities to carry out upgrades.
The business department said tens of thousands of households will benefit from energy-saving upgrades and low carbon heating through the scheme, with the new funds taking total expenditure this year to £1.3 billion.
But £2 billion of spending had been expected under the green homes grant scheme.
Last week, the Commons Environmental Audit Committee published a damning assessment of the programme, saying ministers had “significantly underestimated” the cost of upgrading the energy efficiency of domestic homes.
The cross-party group of MPs said “botched” implementation of policies had been “nothing short of disastrous”.
Their report said this had resulted in a “chronic” skills shortage in the home retrofit sector, leaving the Government with a “colossal task” if it is to achieve its climate change aspirations.
The government claimed last night: “The scheme was designed to provide a short-term economic boost while tackling our contribution to climate change. Applications made before the end of March deadline will be honoured and any vouchers already issued may be extended upon request.”