A step backwards?

Glass Times editor reports on the fallout from the government’s recent Green Homes Grant initiative.

The government’s Green Homes Grant, announced on July 8, looked such a great idea.

I wrote about it for last week’s newsletter that same day having read all the pre-announcement briefings. And I stand by what I said, which was (in summary) that many companies are already reporting a significant increase in enquiries and sales following the lifting of lockdown restrictions, with the marketing director of one fabricator telling me that his company has had its best-ever June.

However, cash flow is causing real problems (see p10 for an example), and a financial injection should generate an immediate interest in energy efficient windows and doors, and rekindle the conversation around the drive towards carbon neutrality, which fell off the agenda during the last 10 years.

The news (before chancellor Rishi Sunak officially announced it in parliament) was met with enthusiasm from most quarters within the construction industry.

Unfortunately, the announcement has had the opposite intended effect. First of all, the role of glazing in the scheme isn’t clear (despite the national media saying that it is one of the primary measures), and many homeowners are reportedly delaying projects until the voucher scheme is launched in September.

Oh, and The Martin Lewis Money Show told viewers to hold off buying double glazing until the scheme is up and running.

Certass’s Jon Vanstone has taken up the baton for the industry, and immediately published an open letter to Alok Sharma, Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, to argue that the announcement on July 8 has damaged the glazing industry as it gave false hope to consumers.

“This has already led to a huge number of job cancellations as consumers wait for government updates to see if they are eligible for the support,” he said. “Before the announcement, the glazing industry was bouncing back successfully, both with installations that had been postponed during lockdown, and new business.

“I would like to ask for immediate clarity on the Green Homes Grant Scheme as regards the position of glazing. I suggest that the most appropriate position is to include glazing as a primary measure for the scheme and to enable the backdating of funds to consumers with immediate effect.

He went on to say: “If the current position is not rectified urgently, the damage to the sector will be considerable as regards job losses and company closures, due to the lack of financial coverage for businesses that Covid-19 caused and the impact from the announcements and media coverage this week.”

You can read the full letter here.

Eurocell is also calling for greater clarity, and for the start date be brought forward so that it doesn’t risk inadvertently damaging the sector.

Mark Kelly, CEO of Eurocell, said: “The government’s Green Homes Grant Scheme is a great initiative for stimulating the home improvement market, but by being announced with only minimal details and with several months until implementation it currently stands to cause more harm than good for the industry.

“The typical value for an installed replacement window is around £450, so by offering £5,000 vouchers, homeowners are seeing the value of an entire home window refit coming their way. The downside of this is that orders are being put on hold which the glazing industry needs now if it is to recover from the lockdown – pushing this income back by three months means that by the time it arrives many suppliers and installers will have had to face redundancies or even going out of business.”

The Department of Business Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) told the GGF that while the Green Homes Grant Scheme will include energy-efficient windows and doors, they will be part of a wider refurbishment of homes aimed at achieving EPC Level C.

“The aim of the scheme is to significantly improve energy and heat efficiency, which can only be achieved by a number of measures,” it said.
BEIS also said it wouldn’t be brought forward.

John Agnew, GGF managing director, said he was cautiously optimistic about this proposed new scheme.

“We appreciate this scheme is part of the government’s long-term plan to make existing properties more energy efficient and this is welcomed, but with the Covid-19 pandemic still with us and its negative impact on business and consumer confidence, the last thing we need is another damaging blow that could create cash flow problems and an employment crisis in the industry,” he said.

The GGF has issued a template letter to all its members asking them to write to their local MPs to try to influence change.

Both GGF and Certass have raised a number of queries regarding the scheme with BEIS, and Glass Times will report on any developments in due course.