Key Decision identified as Affordable Warmth Strategy and Action Plan in the Notice of Key Decisions published on 24 March 2021.
Councillor D Wright, Cabinet Member: Economy, Housing, Transport and Infrastructure presented the report of the Director: Housing, Employment & Infrastructure.
The draft Strategy being presented for the period 2021-26 was an important element of the Council’s housing strategy. The objective of the Strategy was to improve housing stock condition across the Borough; providing a decent place to live was the foundation on which people built their lives.
The Strategy aimed to reduce the number of houses that were classed as in fuel poverty. At the time of the meeting, over 9% of households were considered to be in fuel poverty. This was below the national and regional average but it meant that there were still many residing in cold and damp homes. The issue spanned both urban and rural areas, and in some parts of the Borough the fuel poverty rate was over 14% of households.
Tackling fuel poverty linked in with a number of Council initiatives such as building Safer & Stronger Communities, supporting the most vulnerable through the Health & Wellbeing Strategy, and it linked directly to the Authority’s aim to create a better Borough.
More fuel-efficient homes would also help to tackle the climate emergency,
Cabinet Members welcomed the report and the Strategy noting the importance of warmer and higher quality homes in ensuring healthier lives. Telford & Wrekin was doing what it could to tackle fuel poverty but could not succeed alone. Government action was also needed.
The Leader of the Liberal Democrat / Independent Group welcomed the report.
The Leader of the Conservative Group had a number of queries:
1. How would people living in fuel poverty be identified?
2. What was the Council’s reduction target and over what period?
3. What power did the Council have over private landlords to address the problems raised in the report?
The Cabinet Member informed the Leader of the Conservative Group that households would be identified through cross-agency working, examining applications for benefits and other forms of support. Private landlords would be engaged through enforcement actions, they were also required to comply with a set energy efficiency rating. The target would have to be reviewed as indicators of fuel poverty had been changed.
The Leader of the Council stated that this Strategy went some way to addressing the problem that many faced – whether to eat or to heat their homes.
· The Council’s draft Affordable Warmth Strategy for a six-week period of consultation with partners and stakeholders be approved.
· Responsibility be delegated to the Director: Housing, Employment and Infrastructure, in consultation with the Cabinet Member for Economy, Housing, Transport & Infrastructure to update and finalise the draft Strategy following the consultation. Any significant changes required as a result of the consultation would be brought back to Cabinet for approval before the Strategy is finalised.
· Responsibility be delegated to the Director: Housing, Employment & Infrastructure, in consultation with the Cabinet Member for Economy, Housing, Transport & Infrastructure to finalise and launch the Affordable Warmth “Top-up” Fund based on the criteria set out in the local ECO-Flexible Eligibility Statement of Intent approved at Cabinet on 9th July 2020 and published on the Council’s web-site on 17th December 2020.
· Cabinet would receive an annual progress report on the implementation of the Affordable Warmth Strategy.
· It be noted that the Council would report bi-annually to the Secretary of State in line with its obligations under the Home Energy Conservation Act 1995 (HECA).