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Fewer than a tenth of the intended number of homes will benefit from the Government’s Green Homes Grant Voucher Scheme.
A National Audit Office report, out this week, tears into the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy over the way it ran the scheme that offered homeowners up to £5,000 funding, or £10,000 for low-income households, towards installation of energy efficient improvements.
The Department originally expected the scheme to support up to 82,500 jobs over six months, and enable up to 600,000 households to save up to £600 on their energy bills, said the NAO. It now forecasts that the scheme will eventually support efficiency measures in 47,500 homes, and create up to 5,600 jobs over 12 months.
Much of the failure is put down to ‘an over-ambitious timetable’ that was ‘not executed to an acceptable standard’.
Many homeowners (and landlords, the report might have added) 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. From October 2020 to April 2021, over 3,000 complaints were made to the Department and the scheme administrator’.
The Treasury is blamed for the ‘over-ambitious 12-week timescale to design the scheme, consult with stakeholders and procure an administrator’.
Pressed on other fronts, including Coronavirus procurement and Brexit, the Department accepted that delivering the scheme within this timescale posed a high risk, but judged it was justified by the need to support businesses in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic’. But it had not made a robust assessment of stakeholder views and did not sufficiently understand the challenges facing installers. It only consulted with installers after the scheme had been announced, ‘which limited the opportunities to include installer views in the scheme design’.
NAO said the Department ‘chose to proceed to its timetable, even though none of the firms that bid for the grant administration contract thought it was possible to fully implement the required digital voucher application system in the time available’. Even by the time the scheme closed, ‘the required system was still not in place, and much more manual processing was required for applications than expected, contributing to a growing backlog’.
NAO recommended the Department should engage properly with suppliers in any future decarbonisation schemes, and make sure its planning is based ‘on a realistic assessment of how long it will take the market to mobilise’.