Hopes for unregistered subcontractors to rescue Green Homes Grant scheme

It now transpires, however, that TrustMark firms are being allowed to farm the work out to unregistered subcontractors to get the work done.

The Green Homes Grant scheme gives homeowners a £5,000 grant to fund up to two-thirds of the cost of home improvements that aid energy efficiency, primarily insulation or heat pumps. It opened on 30th September 2020 for an initial six months and has since been extended to March 2022.

The government expects to allocate £2bn to the scheme, although this is looking optimistic because of the barriers. To qualify for a grant, the work can only be done by a tradesperson or business that is both TrustMark registered and has either Microgeneration Certification Scheme (MCS) or Publicly Accessible Standards (PAS) certification. This rules out most building firms.

There are other hurdles in the small print: you cannot have a grant for double glazing or a new boiler unless you first get more/new insulation and/or an air source heat pump or solar thermal panels.

Last month the House of Commons environmental audit committee, an all-party committee of backbench MPs, published a survey confirming that householders were struggling to find installers eligible to carry out the work and those that were eligible were inundated.

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Another survey, by the Federation of Master Builders, found that just three out of 250 builders who have expressed an interest in the Green Homes Grant scheme have so far managed to complete the necessary registration and training.

The Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy, which oversees the scheme, changed the terms and conditions of the scheme for subcontractors to help clear the blockage.  TrustMark/MCS/PAS registered businesses can employ unregistered subcontractors on their behalf so long as the employing business retains liability and provides guarantees.

The Federation of Master Builders, however, (generally an enthusiastic supporter of contractor licensing and registration schemes) said that the best way to make the nation’s housing stock more energy efficient would be to cut the tax on home improvement works, even if only temporarily.

FMB chief executive Brian Berry said: “Without a long-term government plan for making our homes greener and more energy efficient, we won’t be able  to  tackle fuel poverty, end preventable winter deaths, or meet the UK’s climate change targets. Builders don’t yet have the confidence they need in the domestic energy efficiency market to invest in their businesses and start offering these services to homeowners. Low engagement in the Green Homes Grant scheme has illustrated this problem, with just three master builders becoming accredited to deliver this work since the scheme’s launch. A long-term plan, in the form of a national retrofit strategy, would address these concerns.”

He said: “A national retrofit strategy would need to be underpinned by a package of fiscal incentives that helps consumers to do their bit for the environment. With one in five builders saying clients do not have the cash to go green, the government should temporarily cut VAT on home improvements so that more capital is available for homeowners to do the extension they want while also improving the energy efficiency of their home. It is also essential that the government funds and makes available the necessary training courses for builders so that they can get accredited to deliver green home upgrades, and to a quality standard.”

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