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Birmingham City Council’s green credentials are to be congratulated. But is their latest proposal aimed at the wrong people?

A ground breaking project which could ultimately see all homes in Birmingham fitted with energy-efficient improvements, will be considered by the city council next week.

To be launched initially as a pilot project within Aston, Lozells, Newtown and Northfield, the Green New Deal will see up to 25,000 homeowners and 1,000 businesses offered the chance to have significant energy improvements made to their properties both through insulation and small scale generation, which in the long term will leave them in profit.

By hitting its five-year target that 1 in 5 homes in the pilot area take up the offer the project will see an annual CO2 saving of more than 3,750 tonnes and create 270 jobs.

The pilot project will create or protect 111 jobs and 170 apprenticeships thanks to a £1,186,000 contribution from BeBirmingham through the Working Neighbourhoods Fund (WNF).

However, there’s just one problem with this noble-sounding venture - it’s not free. Homeowners will have to pay to have their properties kitted out with the new environmentally-friendly devices. It’s not cheap, either. The council are basing their costings on a spend of £12,000 per home.

Government grants and subsidies will be available for many homeowners and even for those not eligible the council will make loans available to be paid back with the savings made. They reckon that on that £12,000 initial cost, a 25 year loan will end up saving homeowners over £9,000 over the time period.

This might sound attractive, but it has to be balanced against the fact that the scheme is being piloted in some of the poorer areas of the city, ones where the population is more transient than most. Based on past experience it’s doubtful whether more than a small minority of the population of the places in question will be living in their current home come 2035. They also don’t say what would happen if the savings aren’t as large as promised.

The Green New Deal is a fine idea in principle. It may lead to a massive reduction in CO2 emissions, help raise awareness of the need for eco-friendly building and save its users a lot of money. But it may also lead many people into debt they can’t afford.

This idea needs to be looked at very carefully before it gains council approval.



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