Think tank advocates £7bn a year investment in upgrading homes

Areas in need of levelling up would gain twice as much benefit as London from a nationwide retrofit scheme, according to the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR).

The centre-left policy think tank today published a report which lays out a 28-year plan to retrofit every one of England’s 24 million homes, an agenda it claims would reduce household bills by an average £430 each year.


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Homes in Doncaster, one of the places identified as potentially benefiting from a major retrofit programme

The group says the plan, which would cost an estimated £7bn a year, would yield outsized benefit for the north east and west midlands, parts of which have been identified by government as targets for levelling up.

Report author Joshua Emden said retrofitting had the capacity to “level up regions most in need” as well as cutting energy consumption during an energy bill crisis.

“Left-behind areas like former industrial centres and coastal communities would benefit the most from these jobs and the economic growth it will bring,” he said.

“The country would be better off, the economy would be better off, and the climate would be better off.”

IPPR looked at the energy ratings of homes and levels of fuel poverty in different constituencies around England to determine the scale of work necessary to bring homes up to a good standard.

The suggested programme of work would directly create more than 61,200 retrofitting jobs in the North East, according to the IPPR, equivalent to more than 5% of the total job market in the region.

In London, by comparison, retrofitting jobs would represent slightly more than 2% of total employment.

Former industrial centres like Doncaster North and Sheffield Hallam are also slated to reap greater benefits, along with coastal areas such as Clacton, Wallasey and South East Cornwall.

Across England, the IPPR claims the retrofit programme could create 1.2m jobs directly and 1.5m indirectly.

The report made a series of recommendations to the government, including increased funding to local authorities, a national information campaign and a properly resourced advice service, as well as the introduction of stricter EPC minimum standards.

IPPR also advocated further investment in skills, a clampdown on poor quality training and the establishment of an initiative they call GreenGo – a one stop shop for financial support, including grants for fuel poor homes and zero interest loans for other groups.

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Emden urged government to take a long-term and holistic approach to retrofit, saying businesses had been “burned in the past” by policy U-turns.

“Businesses do need to see a long term plan from government to be able to scale up,” he said.

“Particularly in the construction sector and in the RMI sector, there are lots of SMEs and micro businesses where retraining can be quite expensive and time consuming, especially if it means taking time out of work.

“So there needs to be a clear plan that both communicates the benefits of actually doing this retraining and communicating that there will be a future demand for this work, but also provides financial support to the installers in the industry to do that upskilling.

“There should always be the option for people to be investing in their own personal kinds of insulation and low carbon heating, but across the economy as a whole retrofitting is should be seen as an infrastructure project.”