Monday, February 23, 2009

Green Budget: Free Insulation to 25,000 Lewisham homes

The Council's budget for the next municipal year is due to be decided at Full Council on 2nd March. As in the previous two years, the Green Group has put in a detailed budget amendment, with a combination of proposals to overturn what we feel are unacceptable cuts and also proposing a number of new measures, including the roll-out of a free insulation scheme to 25,000 homes in the borough.

The plan would pay for free loft, cavity wall or boiler insulation in 25,700 private homes across Lewisham. That means all private homes in Lewisham which need insulation - but which do not qualify for free help under schemes for the elderly and those on benefits - would get it free of charge. (Those living in social housing will be getting the insulation anyway as part of the decent homes work.) The scheme would run along similar lines to the highly-successful and popular scheme initiated by Green councillors in Kirklees, with an energy company, which must carry out 'green' work under the government's 'Carbon Emissions Reduction Target' rules, being sought as a partner, providing half the cash.

Once again, Ute has led for the group on putting forward our budget proposals and I expect will be posting something further on this in a few days. (It's Ute's birthday today, btw, so happy birthday Ute!). You can read the basic details of our budget amendment here and see the Full Council papers here. Among our other key proposals are:
  • A new £1m 'revolving' fund which could be dipped into by householders wanting to fit renewable energy equipment in their homes. The no-interest loans would only have to be repaid when the home is sold on, and the money would return to the fund so others can access it.
  • £1.5m to retrofit solid wall (mostly Victorian or pre-1930s) council homes as they become void. As tenants in the Brockley PFI area can testify, these properties often get less insulation than those in other properties because their solid walls make installing insulation more complicated. It's disruptive work, so it makes sense to start by carrying it out on properties that are empty, before they are re-let.
  • £500,000 fund to allow the Mayor to use compulsory purchase orders to bring neglected properties back into use. This follows on from the findings of my committee in its Empty Properties review earlier in the year and is aimed at being a last resort, when all other enforcement measures have failed (I can think of a certain property on the corner of Loampit Hill/Tyrwhitt Road that immediately springs to mind here).
  • Money to roll out the 'brown bins' garden waste collection trial to almost 20,000 homes. Our budget amendment the year before last resulted in the successful pilot. We are now saying lets start rolling the bins out permanently.
While the Greens have submitted a detailed budget amendment, the Lib Dems have again opted for the back of a fag packet option. They propose a zero rate increase in Council Tax by scrapping the Mayor's proposals to spend £2m on measures to tackle the recesssion. That's it, no attempt to overturn any cuts they might not like, no positive growth proposals to help us tackle the 'triple crunch' of climate change, peak oil and the credit-fuelled financial crisis. I am confident that our proposals will benefit residents more, both in the medium and long-term, both in terms of energy bill savings, new jobs and warmer homes than a one-off council tax freeze. No budget amendments from the Tories (again) or the Socialists.


Tressillian James said...

Again Sue - I'll take issue wih the retro fit of the cavity wall insulation in social housing. Whilst a great idea for both the environment and for the energy bills of those living in the property, many of the buildings are shared by leaseholders. Would we see a second round of costs (as the council and your budget presumably won't cover the leaseholders)to the PFI leaseholders, just after we have finished paying for a first round that is not delivering us any tangible benefits?

Anonymous said...

No. Cavity wall insulation would be free to all, whether private or social housing. Proposal re solid wall insulation only applies to Council properties as they become void, and would most likely involve internal wall insulation, which would be done per flat, not necessarily to the whole building, so again, no cost to leaseholders.

Rayyan said...

Good work Sue! It sounds like an amendment no one could oppose - oops, there go the Lib Dems again!