People across the country are rightfully concerned about rising prices and inflation by the reanimation of the global economy and global energy price spikes brought on by the inability of supply to keep up with demand and the Russian invasion of Ukraine. I am acutely aware that many people in Darlington and the wider North-East have been struggling with fuel costs and while we must be realistic that there are limited levers at the Government’s disposal to control these global pressures, I have strongly welcomed the range of measures put in place by the Government, including the new three-part plan to help households with their energy bills, during this challenging period.
But we must be looking at the bigger picture, retrofitting homes and making them more energy efficient offers us the opportunity to cut heating bills permanently, reducing our reliance on fossil fuels and embracing green energy to heat our homes into the future. But in the north of England there are still significant challenges in achieving this aim.
The UK housing stock is generally older than that of the rest of Europe and this is more pronounced in areas in the north of England such as Darlington. These older properties are far more difficult to decarbonise, with solid walls and stringent planning constraints making insulation a far more difficult task. But these properties also make up the fabric of northern towns they cannot and should not be swept away, Darlington would not be Darlington without its iconic Victorian terraces and the people that live in them must be brought along in our journey to decarbonise.
Decarbonisation of our homes is a fantastic opportunity for the North. A chance to permanently cut heating costs for hard-working families, to improve health outcomes for some of the most vulnerable in society, and a chance to level up communities by reaping the economic benefits that will come with our transition to net-zero through the green jobs and industries that will come with it.
The measures the Government have taken so far have been working to some extent, but we need more Government support and more opportunities to leverage private finance while offering incentives to homeowners if we are to take full advantage of this opportunity. We need both carrot and stick.
We should be looking at Green Mortgages, where you borrow a little more to do home upgrades, allowing you to save right away while paying it off over time. An energy saving stamp duty, offering rebates if a homeowner makes their home more energy efficient within two years of the point of sale. A salary sacrifice scheme akin to the Cycle2Work scheme offering people no upfront costs and repayments offset by their more energy efficient home.
That is what my Westminster Hall debate today is all about, raising the profile of this important issue, championing the work the Government has already done but encouraging them to go even further to truly benefit communities that have been left behind by previous Governments of all colours. We can truly level up the North if we tackle this issue.
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