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Warm Front Scheme

Volume 491: debated on Thursday 23 April 2009

Warm Front is one of our key tools for tackling fuel poverty among private sector households in England. The scheme was introduced in 2000 and has helped almost 2 million households vulnerable to fuel poverty with a range of heating, insulation and other energy efficiency measures.

The Government are committed to continuous improvement to the scheme. To that end, a review of the contract with the Warm Front scheme manager, eaga, has been carried out over the last few months. A number of changes have now been agreed to the service procurement and delivery arrangements which will lead to significant improvements to the quality of service provided to customers. These changes will open up the scheme to greater competition through liberalisation of both the equipment and installation supply chains, leading to improved value for money. In addition, eaga will over time be introducing a new computerised surveying process which will improve the quality of service to customers by providing a much clearer picture for householders of the installation work to be carried out. Eaga will be managing the scheme to 31 March 2011, the end of the current spending period.

The scheme will also be further improved by changes to the levels of grant available to householders. The maximum grants currently available are £2,700 or £4,000. I am pleased to say that with effect from today these grant maxima will be increased. There will be two: one of £3,500, and one of £6,000 for harder to treat properties off the gas grid.

These increases will apply to all Warm Front work completed following applications made from today. They will also apply to all applications already in the Warm Front system but where the work has not been started. This will ensure that those households currently in the system do not have to cancel their current application and reapply in order to have the benefit of the new grant maxima.

The increases to the grant maxima require the existing Warm Front regulations to be amended. The Government are currently working on bringing forward the statutory instrument and hope to have the new regulations in force next month.

In addition the scope of the scheme is being expanded to include the installation of low carbon technologies such as solar thermal heating and air source heat pumps, which will help householders generate their own low-cost, renewable energy. These technologies will initially be trialled in small-scale pilot programmes.

These changes will lead to significant improvements to the operation of the scheme. They will mean that fewer households will have to make a contribution and that we are able to help those in harder to treat properties.