Labour promises Warm Homes For All to save £11.54bn a year
Christmas is coming, but with a general election also on the way, Santa isn’t the only one promising lots of free stuff to good girls and boys. Hot on the heels of promises of stocking fillers like free broadband for all and free MOTs for your teeth, the Labour Party have unwrapped the big box under the tree to reveal a £250bn gift it’s calling “Warm Homes For All”.
What is the Warm Homes For All scheme?
Under the umbrella of Labour’s Green Industrial Revolution policy, the Warm Homes scheme is promised to tackle fuel poverty, cut energy bills, save lives, create jobs and fight the climate emergency.
Labour has proclaimed it “the largest scale upgrade of UK housing since post-war reconstruction.”
The UK’s main opposition party said the plan would lead to 450,000 new jobs by 2030.
Almost 27 million homes in the UK will be made more energy efficient with free or subsidized installation of double glazing, cavity wall, loft and floor insulation as well as renewable and low carbon technologies such as solar power and heat pumps.
By 2030 the party hopes over 7 million more homes will have solar power systems installed and 6.34 million more homes will have heat pumps fitted.
What else will Labour’s policy deliver?
Labour said the plans would lead to households using 23% less energy to heat their homes meaning an average saving of £417 a year for 9.6 million low-income households or a UK-wide saving of £11.54bn a year by 2030.
If this all sounds vaguely familiar, don’t worry. Labour launched the “Warm Front Scheme” in 2000 to help vulnerable households and those in fuel poverty to make energy efficiency improvements to their homes.
The scheme ran successfully until 2011 when the Liberal-Democrat and Conservative coalition slashed its funding by two thirds from £345m in 2010 to £110m and killed it off altogether in 2013.
Households contribute 67 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent emissions (Mt CO2e) which makes up 15% of the UK’s greenhouse gas output, so home energy use is a good place to focus on reducing the nation’s carbon footprint.
Labour said its plan would save 50.46Mt CO2e or 10.28% of total UK emissions by 2030, a target which seems very ambitious to say the least.
The amount it plans to save is far more than the 45Mt CO2e produced by all of UK agriculture or the equivalent of 72% of the emissions of all the cars in Britain and Northern Ireland.
If achievable this would put the country well on the way to fulfilling its net-zero carbon emissions by 2050 pledge.
How will Warm Homes For All work?
Labour promises that low income households will get grant-funded upgrades and pay nothing up front. Some of the average £417 saved on their energy bills annually will be deducted to pay for the installation work.
The better-off will be able to access interest free loans to make their homes more energy efficient with the loans again being repaid through savings on bills.
The party also plans to ensure social residences and privately rented accommodation are all boosted to at least a C rating on Energy Performance Certificates (EPCs) by the mid-2020s. An EPC rating of A means a home is highly efficient with the lowest energy bills, the lowest rating is G for low efficiency and least savings on bills.
How will Labour’s plan improve health?
Warm Homes For All is also aimed at saving lives and improving people’s health.
Cold, damp housing can cause or exacerbate illnesses such as asthma, especially among the elderly and other vulnerable populations.
Asthma afflicts 5.4 million people in the UK or 17.5% of the population, with an average of three people dying from the illness every day. Labour claims that, by making homes warmer and reducing damp and mould, the country should see 565,000 fewer cases of asthma by 2030.
Excess winter deaths in the UK in 2017-2018 season were the highest on record for 40 years according to the Office for National Statistics. An estimated 50,100 people died in England and Wales due to cold, with most avoidable deaths occurring among people aged 75 and over.
Labour’s proposal estimates that 1,500 of such deaths can be prevented through its Warm Home upgrade plan.
How will Labour’s scheme tackle energy poverty and unemployment?
The nation-wide housing retrofit is also a big push against fuel poverty.
The most recent available figures found 2.53 million households, or 10.9% of all households in England, were classed as being fuel poor. One quarter of single parents and around 1.14 million elderly people fall in this category.
By upgrading the nation’s homes Labour hopes to reduce bills significantly and pull the vast majority of people out of a vicious cycle of debt and poverty.
Of course all this upgrading and retrofitting will actually need to be done by someone, so plasterers, carpenters, insulation installers, electricians and others will surely see a boom in trade. A Labour government could create an estimated 250,000 skilled jobs with the Warm Homes plan.
How much will all this cost?
The cost of the scheme has been calculated at around £250bn, yes that’s 250 billion pounds, by a team led by Sustainable Design Collective Director and University of Leeds research fellow Dr Donal Brown.
That price tag works out at an average of £9,300 per home. The plan, according to Labour, is for £60bn of this cost to be paid for by government subsidy and the remainder by long-term savings on energy bills.
Announcing the plans, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said the election offered a “clear” choice.
“We can either take action to protect future generations, or allow the Tories to help fuel our planet’s destruction,” he said.
“If we don’t radically change course we face the threat of a hostile and dying planet. But Labour will turn that threat into an opportunity.”
The Labour scheme would undoubtedly have many real world benefits if it can be properly implemented.
What about the Warm Home Discount?The Warm Home Discount is a current benefits scheme, unrelated to Labour election plans, that aims to lower bills for eligible households through a one-off discount. Read more about how it works.