Strictly sidelined

Facts do not cease to exist because they are ignored.

So the Government thinks it’s so important to get us all the invest in the energy efficiency of our homes that it is prepared to spend its own (well, taxpayers’) money to promote it.

Except it is, apparently, not as important an issue as making sure that everyone can still catch up with the goings-on in Eastenders and the XFactor.

Why else would the advertising and marketing spend for the Green Deal be a tenth of the spend to inform people of the switch to digital televisions?

There has been £2.9m allocated to push the Green Deal when it eventually launches (because whatever happened in October, it definitely wasn’t a launch. Greg Barker is quite sure of that. Yes, that is the same Greg Barker who swore blind that the Green Deal would be ready for an October launch).

That’s compared with the £200m that was spent on advising us to switch or lose all our TV channels when the analogue signal was switched off. Of course they didn’t use any of that money to warn us that the 4G signal would completely bugger up our Freeview, but maybe they just forgot.

Still, I suppose it’s something that the government has even recognised that not every householder is champing at the bit to get involved in an overly complicated, badly thought out scheme that will reduce their energy bills whilst being paid for via those energy bills.

At a BMF Young Merchants meeting last week (yes, I know that’s stretching the term ‘young’ but I was there as a guest) there were two chaps from DECC who came along to talk to us about the Green Deal.

Poor things. I don’t think they were quite expecting the amount of cynicism and dissent with the official Government view that they received.

When I left the meeting, I was beginning to feel that maybe I’d been a little harsh on the Government over this. Maybe, I thought, I should be looking at this in a different way. All right, so it’s not a perfect scheme – far from it – but it is the only one we’ve got and maybe we should be working with it. Maybe, we should just go along with DECC’s timetable on the grounds that all new things take time to be implemented.

And then I talked to my insulation pals and they feel very differently about it indeed.

According to the insulation sector, the fact that the advertising spend is so pitiful compared with the TV spend just shows how little the government really rates this industry.

We know, because the Government’s own figures told us so, that there is a serious risk that the amount of insulation work is likely to plummet in the transition from CERT-funded schemes run by the big energy companies to the Green Deal. Don’t forget that the finance part of the Green Deal is going to be a loan, with interest added. And the DECC chaps think that interest rate could be between 6-8%.

“There are insulation contractors out there who are scared that they will have no work going forward from January,” Superglass’s CEO Alex McLeod told me. “And the Government really doesn’t seem to care. At all.”

McLeod says that they attitude of DECC is very much one of ‘oh, it’ll all be OK in the end. There may be a bit of a fall off in work in the interim, but once the whole scheme and the finance provisions – and of course the advertising spend – kick in then there’ll be plenty of work for everyone”.

Hmmm. Will there?

DECC seems to be saying that they are playing the long game. That they aren’t after a quick-fix, rather long-term sustainable solutions to the problem of our energy use.

And, when you look at it like that, it is possible to agree: a quick-fix isn’t what’s needed, a long-term solution is what’s needed and we do use far too much energy and use it too inefficiently.

However, that’s as maybe but it distresses me and others – McLeod amongst them – that DECC seems to be quite happy playing fast and loose with people’s livelihoods until it can get its game plan sorted.

But what does all this matter anyway? As long as we can all keep up with who’s in and who’s out of Strictly Come Dancing.

About Fiona Russell-Horne

Group Managing Editor across the BMJ portfolio.

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