Sunday, March 11, 2012

A Solar Future for Social Housing?

Guest post by Alan Griffiths: UNISON London Labour Link
forum Motion 2012.

"Decent Homes work was evidently coming to an end late in 2010. No other investment for improving Council housing had been mentioned by the Tory-led government.  An acquaintance with the author-publisher of this blog had taught the UNISON stewards in Ascham Homes that Housing Associations had already been making development staff redundant. Could we influence our ALMO to do anything that might keep our colleagues in a job and show that the public sector could still do new, useful things in these dire times?

We were aware that some ALMOs and Housing Associations had done “rent a roof” deals with private sector partners to offer free solar electricity to their tenants. We were also aware of the contracts drafted by the London Development Agency for Ken Livingstone in 2007/8 for private sector partners to lead investment in energy efficiency and be paid from the future savings. UNISON stewards in Ascham Homes wrote “Every South facing roof is a potential Power Station” in January 2011. 

Waltham Forest Council got HM Treasury approval for Prudential Borrowing of £9 million to fit Solar Photo-Electric Panels to 1,000 Council houses and some of its big buildings. This way the income of up to £2 million is to the Council.

The project was reported on the “Waltham Forest Guardian” website on Thursday 3rd November 2011. The government announced the Tariff cut the next week and the scheme was put on hold. During the new round of number crunching, several colleagues became redundant.

It was still viable! Two Contracts were let, each for 500 houses to be completed, by 31 March 2012 and as many as possible before the Tariff cut. Letters went to tenants late in January 2012 outlining the scheme. 688 were done by Friday 2nd March 2012, when the Tariff cut began.

Energy efficiency is Investing to Save. Costs are coming down, but future projects will become more complex and demand more skill. UNISON needs to shout more about being the Construction Professionals Union.

It is generally believed that renewable electricity from roofs cannot be supplied to flat and maisonette tenants. This blockage needs removing. 


Anonymous said...

We can bash the Tory led government all we like but the reality is that Labour withheld Decent Homes money from many areas of the country for over a decade.

The round 6 ALMOs (or their LAs) are now all delivering a 4/5 year programme so also totally incorrect to say that DH funding has all stopped.

Anonymous said...

I really don't understand this posting.

If you're that concerned about energy efficiency measures in council stock then you should be calling for greater engagement by local authorities to tap into the remaining CERT and CESP funds before they come to a close in December. And they should be involved in the Green Deal and the ECO programme there after.

Training unemployed people to become laggers, energy efficiency assessors and insulators for a 14 million household programme is also a damn sight more effective that worrying about solar panels and feed-in-tariffs.

The other point to bear in mind is councils will soon becoming self-financed Housing Revenue Account businesses. Retaining the entire rental yield from this should support any future decent homes and energy efficiency programmes.

Anonymous said...

What a pair of bad-tempered postings.

10:50 knows of some places where Decent Homes works are going on, and apparently denies that there are others where it has ended or is close to ending.

15:30 advocates low tech energy efficienty works. Me too; I've seen loads of it done together with Decent Homes works and wonder any anyone would do it after Decent Homes works. My colleagues have been there, done that and filed the certificates by the thousand.

If you're both APF-paying UNISON members, you can put down amendments to the motion.


Anonymous said...

It's not bad tempered, you just appear to pick on a small thing - rather randomly may I add - which is frankly lost in the bigger picture of housing and housing energy efficiency schemes.

John Gray said...

Well said Alan. I think pointless carping is another valid description.

I think your organisation deserves a pat on the back for what they have done. Pity the Coalition Government has turned its back on the green agenda in Housing.

Finally, anon I doubt that the changes to the HRA will enable sufficient investment to keep homes to a decent standard.