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Boost the warmer homes ‘retrofit’ programme as way out of Covid-19 employment slump, say Greens

From West Sussex, to Gatwick and beyond: economic analysis tells local leaders that boosting environmental initiatives will be key to economic recovery and new jobs

Plans for warmer homes and environmental projects could lead to a surge in job opportunities in Brighton and Hove, according to a report going to the Greater Brighton Economic board tomorrow, Tuesday 14th July. In response, Green Councillors have issued a renewed call to expand home energy efficiency programmes across the city.

With many residents living in old, poorly insulated housing stock, Greens say plans already underway to improve home energy efficiency such as installing insulation – known as ‘retrofitting’ – could be quickly expanded. These changes could create jobs, lower fuel bills and help bring down toxic emissions. Seventy-one percent of homes in the UK do not meet the minimum required standard for home energy efficiency, known as ‘EPC standard C.’

A report issued by national policy researchers the IPPR earlier this month (2nd July) has found that a programme of installing insulation and energy-saving measures in homes could generate over 200,000 new jobs across England.

The findings are also echoed in the report going to the Greater Brighton Economic Board, which recommends that council and business leaders across Sussex begin prioritising opportunities for investment in ‘green’, low carbon projects as a route to economic recovery from the pandemic. 

Urging leaders across the region not to miss the opportunity to both lower toxic emissions, energy bills and create new jobs, Greens say the whole region could benefit from a focus on retrofitting programmes, harnessing existing skills and knowledge. A recent report from the Local Government Association (LGA), has also revealed that in Brighton and Hove almost 800 new jobs could be created in the energy efficiency sector alone by 2030, based on current demand.

A Green amendment to the council’s spending plans earlier this year included an agreement that the council would set aside a pot of money for a ‘warmer homes’ programme, to help progress retrofitting plans.  Following the recent government announcement of a new £3bn ‘green investment package,’ which will include £5000 grants for homeowners and landlords to install energy saving measures, Greens say the time to act is now.

Green Councillor Phélim Mac Cafferty, who sits on the Greater Brighton Economic Board, commented:

“Green Councillors are determined that will not tumble out of the Covid-19 crisis and back into the climate crisis. This important research says there is every reason for our city and region to be optimistic out of the despair of  the pandemic.

“In light of this continued evidence of the benefits of ‘green’ projects for the economy and for individuals, much bolder commitments on retrofitting from regional leaders are a way forward for local communities facing the challenges of both Covid-19 and climate change. We now need to clearly identify the city and our region as the number one location to grow a green and fair economy. We now need to set about a clear plan to push for the realisation of this. Now is our time, let’s get on with it.

“At a time when we know that the climate crisis continues unabated joined by the crisis in homelessness, this is fundamentally also about signalling that our city and region can recover in a way that is both good for the planet and for homes. Crucially also at a time when many sadly have lost their jobs, we can have a recovery that’s good for people’s incomes too.”

Councillor Siriol Hugh-Jones, joint Green housing spokesperson, added:

“It is easy to focus on new build homes as a way of reducing emissions. Yet 80% of our existing housing stock will still be around in 2050 – so needs to be made fit for the future. The government announcement of grants to support home energy efficiency work is a welcome move in the right direction, although for those properties in serious need of a range of home energy efficiency measures, £5000 will not go far enough.

“Home energy efficiency programmes offer an opportunity to boost the local economy, through the use of local providers, employing local residents, to improve local homes. For some time now, we have urgently needed to assist homeowners to take the first steps towards making their homes fit for a net zero carbon world while at the same time creating desperately needed secure jobs.

“The pandemic has forced so many of us to spend more time at home. This is a way of making those homes more comfortable and much more efficient to run – while also offering new apprenticeships and jobs in a growth area. Brighton & Hove should – and can – lead the country on this.

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