On Wednesday 15 March, the Chancellor, Jeremy Hunt, delivered his Spring Budget. The Chartered Institute of Plumbing and Heating and Engineering (CIPHE) has said the continuing support for energy bills is a relief to many worried about slipping further into fuel poverty.
Kevin Wellman, Chief Executive Officer at the CIPHE commented:
“By the government’s own figures, almost 2.5 million households in England fell into fuel poverty in the last twelve months. This was never the time to further increase energy bills, so maintaining the energy price guarantee at current levels for a further three months was welcomed. However, March still saw the end of the one-off winter support payment and, with no progress in bringing the number of households to a minimum energy efficiency rating of C having been made, more is needed. There must be a greater focus on comprehensive and sustainable solutions addressing root causes of fuel poverty to ensure that everyone has access to affordable and safe energy.
“As an educational charity dedicated to how the plumbing and heating industry protects consumers, including the most vulnerable people in society, we are pleased to see that the prepayment meter penalty will be removed from four million households. This is a positive step, but our main concern remains for those who continue to face the very real, and terrible threat of being unable to heat their homes. With energy costs forecast to fall, it is vital that any withdrawal of future support is targeted so as not to adversely affect people who still need assistance, such as those on low incomes, or those living with health and age concerns.”
The Budget also included £63 million of additional funding for ‘Returnships’ – an initiative aimed at encouraging workers over 50, those with children, and those with disabilities and long-term sickness back into work.
Kevin continued: “The plumbing and heating industry faces an ageing workforce and people leaving faster than joining. So, when you consider that the physical nature of plumbing and heating work is a key reason that the more senior cohort leave the profession, it seems more logical to focus on those with 40-year careers ahead of them. Add to that, the Plumbing and Domestic Heating Technician standard is the industry agreed apprenticeship which takes up to four years to complete. It begs the question - who, over 50, will be able to make this time commitment?
“It must be recognised, that experience and competency takes years to attain regardless of an individual’s age when entering the industry. Therefore, it may be that further government assistance is needed to bolster such a vital public service at some point down the line.”
In terms of broader energy news, Jeremy Hunt also announced the reclassification of nuclear as a ‘sustainable’ energy option.
Kevin added: “We’ll be keeping an eye on how wider investment from an energy and infrastructure perspective impacts the delivery of plumbing and heating services across the UK. The investment announcement appears to lay foundations for some sectors for UK energy but with reference to the nuclear versus renewables conversation related to the specific niches of our industry, a longer-term approach is required. It is clear that there is no quick fix or one stop solution regarding achieving Net Zero and I urge the government to continue to work closely with the CIPHE in the future.”