To drive early take-up of the green deal, we have announced a £125 million cashback incentive for consumers, a £10 million pioneer places fund to encourage early activity from local authorities, and a £12 million fund for core cities to prepare the supply chain. The new energy saving advice service helpline is in place: the number is 0300 123 1234. We have published green deal quick guides, and the new green deal website was launched on Wednesday 17 October.
I congratulate my right hon. Friend on the fantastic work that he is doing on the green deal. The supply chain that he mentioned is incredibly important. What steps is he taking to encourage smaller businesses from across the country to become suppliers?
I am grateful to my hon. Friend for that question. I know he is a huge champion of smaller businesses, and I can assure him that we see small and medium-sized enterprises as critical to the delivery of the green deal. In fact, I regularly meet SMEs, and this week had a meeting with the Federation of Small Businesses. My Department has set up an expert panel specifically to consider the role of SMEs, chaired by the right hon. Member for Greenwich and Woolwich (Mr Raynsford), for whose co-operation I am very grateful. We have also held a series of national roadshows around the country to alert local businesses to the opportunities right the way through the green deal supply chain, which I am pleased to report to my hon. Friend has attracted a great deal of interest.
The green deal is an excellent initiative and we obviously hope it will get results, but clearly the current economic situation is not a time when many people are going to be keen to take out loans for anything at all. Will the Minister tell us what steps he is taking to support people on lower incomes who might feel unable at the moment to take out loans under a green deal scheme?
First, let me make it absolutely clear that green deals are not loans—certainly not loans as most people understand them. Everybody taking out a green deal should be better off, net-net, on their energy bill after they have had the interventions. It is not something that anybody could feel unable to afford. For those on particularly low incomes, where more work needs to be done on the home than can be financed on a green deal plan, there is £1.3 billion ECO—energy company obligation—programme, which will unleash a huge wave of investment to bring up to standard the homes of the most vulnerable and poorest.