First Minister Mark Drakeford confirmed on Tuesday 28 November that the Welsh Government’s ‘Warm Homes’ energy efficiency scheme will not be up and running until the next financial year, April 2024. This is well beyond its scheduled date of November 2023, and of course after this winter’s cold will have ended.
The Warm Homes programme funds energy efficiency improvements to eligible households and was designed to help tackle fuel poverty. 98% of households on lower incomes in Wales were predicted to be in fuel poverty following the price cap increase of April 2022.
Out in the cold
Plaid Cymru spokesperson for social justice and equalities, Sioned Williams MS, said it was “unforgivable” that the Welsh Labour Government had not mobilised its Warm Homes programme, despite repeated assurances that this would be in place before the end of November. Ms Williams accused the administration of “dragging its feet” while people living in the least fuel-efficient homes had been “left out in the cold”.
In a separate letter to Plaid Cymru climate change spokesperson Delyth Jewell MS, Minister for Social Justice Jane Hutt said the Welsh Government is currently procuring for the scheme.
Delay after delay
The Welsh Government had confirmed that it would begin its Warm Homes scheme at the end of November on several occasions. In a letter to the Climate Change, Environment and Infrastructure (CCEI) Committee in August, the Minister for Climate Change Julie James MS set out the key milestones for the new programme. The letter stated that mobilisation would start at the end of November 2023.
In response to a Committee question about whether the new scheme would make provision for an area-based approach, the Minister stated: “We will be working with the successful bidders during the first year to further develop the scheme to accommodate communal and small-scale area-based schemes, such as the treatment of a terrace of houses or a block of flats, where that is the most appropriate intervention.”
This was confirmed in a letter from Julie James to Jenny Rathbone MS, dated 3 August 2023. It was shared in the Equality and Social Justice Committee on 11 September 2023.
As the Welsh Government stated itself on 15 June 2023: “The cost of living crisis and increased energy prices is [sic] estimated to have pushed up to 45% of Welsh Homes into fuel poverty. It is therefore more important than ever that we better target households to identify those in most need and those who can most benefit from the support available, for example those homes with the poorest fabric, off-grid and rural homes, etc.”
Warm homes are already funded
Sioned Williams MS says: “When it comes to tackling fuel poverty, we’re talking about helping those in extreme poverty. Those who cannot afford to keep their home warm during the coldest months.”
“It’s unforgivable that, as a cold snap creeps across the UK, the Welsh Government has still not mobilised its Warm Homes programme, despite repeated assurances that this would be in place before the end of November. Not only is this a year later than originally promised, but there are also now concerns that this could be delayed until spring 2024.”
“What’s worse is that the Warm Homes programme has already been budgeted for. This isn’t a matter of finding the cash. It’s the Welsh Government dragging its feet while those who are in severe fuel poverty, living in the poorest households and residing in the least fuel-efficient homes, are left out in the cold as winter begins.”
“The Labour Welsh Government must implement the new Warm Homes Programme with urgency to support low income households in making their homes more energy efficient this winter.”