Energy is top of the news bulletins at the moment with cold weather leading to supply difficulties for people who don’t have access to mains gas and electricity supplies. The Government’s immediate response has been heavily scrutinised but their longer-term strategy for energy use should perhaps receive more attention than it has. The Energy Bill, published in the House of Lords in mid-December, lays out the Government’s approach for the future.
The Energy Bill, which will give effect to the Green Deal, signals a welcome step change in the government’s approach to improvement of housing stock, much of which is characterised by inadequate insulation and inefficient heating systems. A concerted programme of home improvement work is essential if we are to improve energy efficiency in homes and reduce our use of fuel. The Green Deal will include a financial plan that lets householders pay for energy saving measures in instalments through their energy bills. Continue reading “Making the Energy Bill work for the fuel-poor”
Yesterday I was giving evidence to the Communities and Local Government Committee for their localism inquiry, alongside Mencap, Sitra and Runnymede Trust.
On the whole, our position on localism is quite positive. The Localism Bill will give more freedom to local authorities and at the same time give local communities more ways to be involved in local decision making, with new powers for neighbourhood planning, to call local referendums and the chance to bid to run local services. We can see there are opportunities and risks in this new approach. But one of the MPs accused us of wanting our cake and eating it – holding on to some national requirements at the same time as supporting localising power, in particular giving communities a chance to get more involved. Continue reading “Is there a limit to localism?”
Why does snow always seems to catch us by surprise? Once the joy of a pretty snow-filled landscape has passed the realities of getting out and about and keeping warm set in – and it’s hard work. This year, as we enter the third week of severe cold weather, it’s clear that the UK just isn’t built for this.
Over the past few years snow problems seem to point to one thing, councils having enough grit. But even if enough had been supplied, with this much snow and ice it will mostly be used on main roads rather than our residential roads. That doesn’t help if you just want to get to the corner shop for a few essentials while you wait for the thaw. It’s even worse if you’re venturing out on foot. The government’s latest response is to get the public to clear the roads. Continue reading “Big chill continues”
We are told that Monday was the busiest day for on-line shopping. BBC reporters were sent out to look at warehouses of goods ready to be sent out for the Christmas rush. But whilst journalists get excited by the Christmas shopping frenzy, it can be easy to forget those for whom the market lets down.
This week, Age UK published a new report by ILC-UK on the older consumer. The report shows that whilst the private sector is vital to our quality of life, far too often it fails the older consumer. The market barriers, from age discrimination to inappropriate advertising, highlight a shopping environment which is obsessed with youth. Large parts of the private sector simply do not understand the wants and needs of the older consumer and some of the barriers to the market are indicative of market failure. This is particularly true given that many of the issues highlighted in the research were raised in the 1960s.
All across the country, local authorities are holding talks on how they can reduce their spending. This is a result of, on average, 26% cuts to their central government grants budgets over the next 4 years. Tough choices are inevitable.
Social care is currently in crisis due to lack of funding. The number of older people needing care is growing but rationing through eligibility criteria means fewer and fewer are qualifying for local authority support. There are few services aimed at preventing those with low-level care needs from reaching a crisis situation. The £2bn “additional funding” announced in the Comprehensive Spending Review barely covers the CSR-created hole in local authority care spending and so we predict a small overall drop in funding over the next four years, threatening to turn this problem into a disaster. Reform to the care system is urgent.