LABM speaks to Bill Rumble, Director of BillSaveUK, about the opportunities surrounding LA Flex and how it can benefit local communities.
When LA Flex was launched in April 2017 with Eco2t, it was the first time that eligibility and opportunity for support with home energy efficiency had truly been put in the hands of local authorities. Enabling those who know and understand the vulnerability of their local community to help take families out of fuel poverty and look forward to a brighter, healthier and more manageable future. But the scheme has been slow to realise its potential and many families who could have benefitted from a warmer home last winter found themselves left out in the cold.
Bill Rumble of national energy advice and installation business, BillSaveUK commented: “Like many local authorities, we’ve been working in this industry for some time. We’ve seen schemes and funding initiatives launched which have favoured different members of society — and there have been plenty of associated success stories. But the launch of LAFlex last year made us rethink our strategy — this programme was new, operated in a completely different way to previous schemes, enabling residents to gain access to higher levels of funding, but with the opportunity for a third party to do the majority of the legwork.
“The LA Flex scheme launched in time to make a difference in the winter of 2017. For those LAs who were quick off the mark posting their Statements of Intent (SOI), there was the potential for a strong, positive PR message in time for the cold weather and to counteract continuing negative news about the rising cost of heating bills. But the scheme has been a little slow to get moving.
“Another issue needs addressing. Reviewing a number of SOIs, the eligibility criteria seems very much aligned to that of a standard Affordable Warmth scheme with low incomes, whilst for others, the heating cost matrices have been designed to only benefit families living in large detached properties with presumably higher incomes.
“The significance of this is highlighted in recent research by the Resolution Foundation, which showed that many British families with an annual income of £50,000 could be included in the ‘just about managing’ category. So what does this mean for families who are earning £40,000 or less and who don’t fit into the relevant AW bracket? This is where we need to examine the prospect, which LAFlex presents and consider what a carefully drafted SOI could achieve.
“As a local authority, you have an enormous opportunity at your fingertips to make a significant difference to vulnerable households in your local community. You don’t need to find new resources or work your way through the hassles of working directly with the utility companies. Lead generators and installers like us can find qualifying households for you, making the whole process incredibly straightforward.
“Over the winter we’ve been working with a number of councils, including Rotherham Metropolitan Borough Council. We helped them define their SOI ensuring inclusion was top of the agenda, before going on to find eligible households and install the recommended energy efficiency measures.”
Cllr Dominic Beck, Rotherham Council’s Cabinet Member for Housing, added: “We’re always hearing about energy prices being pushed up and up, and the fact is there are thousands of people out there who can’t afford to pay. People try to reduce their bills by not having the heating on, but then that has knock-on health issues.
“This new initiative gives us the power to set relevant criteria to determine which households in our local community can have help in making their homes warmer, cheaper to run and for them to feel fine.”
Bill concluded: “In my opinion, LAFlex is the most significant opportunity that local authorities have had to provide home energy efficiency measures to those who need it most.”