Autumn Statement energy efficiency funding welcome but fears remain over local government funding, says CIEH

17 November 2022, Ciaran Donaghy

CIEH has welcomed measures on energy efficiency announced in the Chancellor’s Autumn Statement but is seeking clarity on how they are to be implemented, alongside raising further concerns about local government funding.

The Chancellor, Jeremy Hunt MP, delivered his Autumn Statement this morning, outlining how the UK Government is going to address some of the key challenges facing the country, namely inflation, public spending, and economic growth.

Within the raft of policy announcements detailed in the Autumn Statement, the Chancellor announced that the Energy Price Guarantee (EPG) is due to extend beyond April 2023 for a further 12 months. The EPG, first introduced by former Prime Minister Liz Truss MP, which freezes the energy price cap at £2,500, was due to expire in April 2023, which would have left many households facing uncertainty regarding their energy bills beyond this point. CIEH had called for greater government support for households struggling with their energy bills, and welcomed the extension of the EPG.

The Autumn Statement also saw the Government announce a new long-term commitment to drive improvements in energy efficiency to bring down bills for households, businesses and the public sector with an ambition to reduce the UK’s final energy consumption from buildings and industry by 15% by 2030. The Chancellor announced the introduction of new government funding worth £6 billion to be made available from 2025 to 2028 to meet these commitments, as well as the creation of a new Energy Efficiency Taskforce (EETF).

CIEH has long called for greater investment in energy efficiency measures to reduce household energy bills and to tackle climate change and has welcomed the introduction of new funding to tackle this urgent issue. However, greater clarity is needed on how this funding is going to be allocated, what measures the Government are going to prioritise, and who will be involved in the EETF.

CIEH has also questioned the Government’s approach to local government funding and support for environmental health. EHPs play a vital role in enforcing standards in food, housing, environmental protection, and health and safety, and are at the front line in protecting public health. Real terms cuts in spending for local government has required EHPs to maintain this vital work with ever decreasing resource, leading to serious questions about the sustainability of the profession.

Ross Matthewman, Head of Policy and Campaigns at CIEH, said:

“While CIEH cautiously welcome a number of the announcements made in today’s Autumn Statement, we wish to see greater clarity on some of the key aspects.

For example, we are delighted to hear that the Chancellor has heeded calls from the CIEH, and others, to significantly increase investment in energy efficiency. CIEH has repeatedly urged the government to increase investment in energy efficiency and welcome the introduction of £6 billion in new funding to that end.

However, with little clarity on how that money is to be spent, what measures are to be prioritised, and who will form part of the new Energy Efficiency Taskforce, we remain in the dark as to how effective this spending commitment will be. We would welcome the opportunity to work closely with the Government in shaping the delivery of this commitment and will be reaching out to that effect.

In addition, given the pressures on local authorities, the Chancellor's spending plans for local government are in no way adequate to enable them to sustain the number of environmental health professionals that are needed. Permitting larger increases in council tax is not the answer and may simply promote a postcode lottery in standards.

There must be greater clarity from the Government about how it intends to ensure sustainable local government funding and the continuation of the environmental health workforce.

While CIEH welcomes much of what was announced in today’s Autumn Statement, these urgent issues need to be addressed as a matter of priority”

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