De­lay­ing green homes grant is ‘reck­less’

The Daily Telegraph - Business - - Business - By Tom Rees

THE Chan­cel­lor’s £2bn green home voucher scheme has back­fired af­ter firms blasted its “reck­less” Septem­ber start date for caus­ing cus­tomers to can­cel in­stal­la­tions and hold off pur­chases.

Win­dow firms and trade sup­pli­ers warned of suf­fer­ing a col­lapse in busi­ness that has forced many to re­fur­lough staff af­ter the scheme in­cen­tivised cus­tomers to wait un­til Septem­ber.

“Our ap­point­ments di­ary col­lapsed by 70pc with peo­ple pre­fer­ring not to have an ap­point­ment but to wait un­til Septem­ber,” said Al­lan Forbes, boss of Brack­en­wood Win­dows, a dou­ble glaz­ing com­pany with sales of £10m.

The Gov­ern­ment had been “reck­less”, he said. “We have got no sales com­ing in. We are go­ing to have to re­fur­lough staff, it’s like Covid-19 all over again.”

Roy Frost, man­ag­ing di­rec­tor of GJB, a trade sup­plier with £30m turnover, said there had been “un­prece­dented num­bers of de­lays and can­celled in­stal­la­tions that have had an im­me­di­ate im­pact”.

The Glass and Glaz­ing Fed­er­a­tion said many of its mem­bers were refu-lough­ing staff and have seen a 40pc drop-off in daily or­ders. In­dus­try bosses have been warned by the busi­ness depart­ment that it is “highly un­likely” that the scheme to make homes more en­ergy ef­fi­cient will be brought for­ward to mit­i­gate the sud­den dropoff in sales and in­stal­la­tion.

How­ever, sources said of­fi­cials could an­nounce that the grant will be re­stricted to re­plac­ing sin­gle rather than dou­ble glaz­ing, slash­ing the pro­por­tion of win­dows el­i­gi­ble and un­lock­ing de­mand.

Chan­cel­lor Rishi Su­nak un­veiled a £3bn green in­vest­ment package at his mini-Bud­get ear­lier this month, claim­ing it would sup­port 140,000 jobs, with £2bn set aside for grants to help with green home im­prove­ments, such as in­su­la­tion and dou­ble glaz­ing.

Home­own­ers can ob­tain a £5,000 grant, while low in­come house­holds can get up to £10,000. How­ever, the de­tails of the scheme are still be­ing ironed out, mean­ing many cus­tomers have held off pur­chases on prod­ucts that may not be el­i­gi­ble when the grants are launched.

Craig Beau­mont, chief of ex­ter­nal af­fairs at the Fed­er­a­tion of Small Busi­nesses, said the voucher scheme is a “bril­liant pol­icy” but urged of­fi­cials to back­date the grants.

“This will un­lock the ben­e­fits of this pol­icy right now rather than act­ing as a tem­po­rary dis­in­cen­tive un­til Septem­ber,” he said. “In­ad­ver­tently, their booked work for July and Au­gust is be­ing can­celled as home­own­ers await the vouch­ers to launch in Septem­ber.”

Jon Van­stone, chair of Cer­tass Trade As­so­ci­a­tion, said there had been “un­in­tended con­se­quences” from the scheme’s an­nounce­ment. “We are too thin on the fi­nances to have a cou­ple of slower months while peo­ple wait for a grant scheme be­cause we have just had three slow months.”

The Depart­ment for Busi­ness, En­ergy and In­dus­trial Strat­egy was con­tacted for com­ment.

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