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Can we trust our political leaders?

June 9th, 2011 · No Comments

The heating industry is predominantly made up of small businesses, including sole traders, partnerships and limited companies.  The people that run these businesses are the heart of our industry and have a wealth of experience and have been the main drivers of innovation.

I am therefore really pleased that leading politicians from both sides agree with me that small businesses will help to drive us out of recession and into economic recovery but this will need the full support of Government.

Prime Minister David Cameron says: “Britain’s small businesses are one of the Country’s greatest assets. Their success is absolutely vital to delivering the jobs and growth on which the future of the economy depends. And the Coalition Government is determined to do everything we can to get behind them”

Leader of the Labour Party Ed Miliband says: “There is no question that small business will be the engine that drives our economic recovery. In the year ahead I will stand up for small businesses and Labour will hold the Conservative led Government to account for their economic strategy that risks damaging jobs and Britain’s growth prospects”

From these very fine and supportive words you would think that we had the full support of these politicians but the reality is very much different and extremely worrying.

Last year we saw the introduction of the much awaited Boiler Scrappage Scheme which was a huge success mainly due to Government and Industry working together to develop, launch, promote, and implement the scheme. It was under funded with only £50million of the requested £300million being made available and this was all allocated and the scheme closed after just 81 days. The result was that 125,000 “A” rated boilers were sold to displace these inefficient “G” rated boilers together with upgraded heating controls, new hot water cylinders and some solar panels. In carbon saving terms this would be about a quarter of a million tonnes of carbon dioxide which is significant.

A year later and we now have a new coalition Government saying all the right things and getting some good headlines about being the “Greenest Government” ever, but has anything been done to substantiate this claim?

Plan “A” is the Green Deal and there does not appear to be a plan “B”. This was initially launched as an insulation programme but following much lobbying from the heating industry this should now be extended to heating and hot water measures. Details of the Green Deal are being debated in Parliament as part of the Energy Bill and it is hoped that the scheme will be introduced in the autumn of 2012 but it could be much later than that due to the amount of legislation and complex detail.  To help the process the Government have set up 4 Green Deal forums to discuss the issues with industry groups, these are:

Installer Accreditation & Qualification Forum
Capacity & Innovation Forum
Maximising Energy Efficiency in Housing Forum
Green Deal Advice Qualification and Accreditation Forum

There are about 20 people on each of these forums to represent the views of all interested parties and the heating industry has managed to secure 3 of these places with representatives attending from the Heating and Hot Water Task Force and the Heating & Hot Water Industry Council. However, when I asked Government who was representing the views and concerns of the small installer I was told that there were 3 heating installers. To my surprise these are British Gas, EAGA and Mark Group, who are 3 of the largest contractors in the Country. So bearing in mind the fine words being said by the Prime Minister and the leader of the labour party are we able to trust our political leaders? Reality would suggest not and I do have some strong reservations about the way the Green Deal is being set up to what appears to be a scheme not to help the small installer who could well be left out in the cold.

This leads me to believe that we cannot just sit around waiting for this so called revolutionary initiative to be launched at some time in the future when other people have decided on the qualifications, accreditation, red tape, and number of hoops we all need to jump through to be able to continue providing professional services to our customers. We are all working harder for less; the cutbacks have put the brakes on consumer spending and confidence and the increase in VAT has compounded this downward trend. The carbon reduction targets are still there and fuel prices are continuing to rise, I have therefore written to The Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne suggesting that VAT on professionally installed boilers and also flue heat recovery is reduced to 5% in line with heating controls, insulation and solar to provide an immediate stimulus to the market. This will not only protect and create jobs but will also help to reduce fuel bills and carbon emissions. This will provide a similar discount on a boiler installation to that provided by the Boiler Scrappage grant but with no additional administration. I have also suggested that this should be initially for a set period of time (2 years) subject to review to help encourage people to take action sooner rather than later.

A positive response would restore some of my faith in our political leaders who currently appear to have very limited ideas apart from grabbing media headlines with no substance..

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Tags: Heating · News

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