Fuel poverty and potential solutions for residents of the Marlborough area were some of the hot topics debated at a meeting with energy minister Greg Barker, at Marlborough’s Conservative Club. Dr Sam Page of Transition Marlborough, along with Marlborough area residents with ‘hard-to-treat homes’, attended a constituency meeting with MP Claire Perry – who chaired the debate – and the government minister. Dr Page told the minister that Marlborough has, in common with other rural areas, twice as many children in fuel poverty as in urban areas.
However, Marlborough has not been able to access the funding known as the Carbon Saving Communities Obligation which available to improve the energy efficiency of rural homes, as this funding only targets areas with high levels of crime, low levels of education and high numbers of benefit claimants.
Mr Barker, minister of state for energy and climate change, responded that a “minimum of fifteen per cent goes to the rural fuel-poor” and social housing associations in particular are taking advantage of the funding available.
Later, Dr Page shared with Marlborough News Online later, that her main point – that funding for rural areas is instead being used in Swindon, Salisbury and Trowbridge – was not addressed. Mayor Guy Loosemore secured agreement from the minister to support a project for Marlborough which needs to be led by Wiltshire Council. The council has previously identified 1,000 homes that need retrofitting under current legislation but has, as yet, done nothing about.
“Unfortunately the Wiltshire Council portfolio holder, Toby Sturgis (strategic planning, development management, strategic housing, property and waste), couldn’t make the meeting,” said Dr Page later.
“Further, Wiltshire Council has not applied for any of the funding offered by DECC which could help to implement a retrofitting project, we hope they will be more proactive in future.”
And demonstrating just how confusing is still the array of funding and legislation around energy saving home improvements, Mr Barker himself talked about accessing a funding pot that actually ran out last year.
“This proposal would be taken to an energy company to implement it, under the Energy Company Obligation (ECO) to reduce carbon emissions.”
Dr Page said: “The take home message is that Transition Marlborough is willing to work with Marlborough Town Council and Wiltshire Council to help access funding from one of the big energy suppliers so that fuel poverty can be eliminated in Marlborough Community Area”.
She prepared for the minister’s visit with a report featuring eight hard-to-treat Marlborough area homes off the gas grid with oil costs up to £4,000 a year.
St John’s School student Jake Seaward, who undertook thermal imaging of the homes, was also present at the meeting.