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MPs say Government ministers have failed in their aim to upgrade 600,000 homes to become energy efficient

   News / 02 Dec 2021

Published: 02 December 2021
Location: London, UK

By Suzanne Evans, Director, Political Insight


MPs say Government ministers have failed in their aim to upgrade 600,000 homes to become energy efficient and that the UK’s Green Homes Grant Voucher Scheme has been a failure. The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) introduced the scheme in August last year to help homeowners instal either insulation — solid wall, cavity wall, underfloor, loft or roof — or low-carbon heating, such as air source or ground source heat pumps, or solar thermal systems. The voucher was meant to cover up to two-thirds of the cost of the improvements, with a maximum government contribution of £5,000. However, The Public Accounts Committee (PAC) said the scheme “underperformed badly”, helping to upgrade only about 47,500 homes. By August 2021, 52% of homeowners’ voucher applications were rejected or withdrawn, and 46% of installer applications failed. PAC said the project accounted for just £314m of its original £1.5bn budget, £50m of which was administration costs. “It cost the taxpayer £50m just to administer the pointlessly rushed through Green Homes Grant scheme, which delivered a small fraction of its objectives, either in environmental benefits or the promised new jobs,” said Meg Hillier MP, PAC chair.
 
Shipping industry officials told the International Trade Committee yesterday that the global supply chain crunch has pushed long-term shipping contract costs up more than 400%. Some vessels are now selling for 15 times what they were before the pandemic, Michelle Wiese Bockmann, markets editor at Lloyds List said. The shipping industry runs on a "just in time model," where goods are ordered to arrive when companies need them and not before. The pandemic knocked this off-kilter, Yahoo Finance UK reports. The committee was told the problem came to a head in September, when ships were arriving at port both with late deliveries of garden furniture and early orders of plastic Christmas trees. The problem has eased somewhat since then, said Tim Morris, CEO of the UK Major Ports Group, but it is still very busy. He also noted that things could change "very quickly" for the worse. Gavin Simmonds, policy director commercial at the UK Chamber of Shipping said the "supply and demand is [still] seriously out of balance."
 
House prices continued to rise in November. Nationwide’s latest house price index revealed annual growth was strong in November at 10%, slightly higher than the 9.9% recorded in October. Prices rose 0.9% month-on-month, after taking account of seasonal effects.  The average house price, not seasonally adjusted, went from £250,311 in October to £252,687 in November. House prices are now almost 15% above the level prevailing in March last year when the pandemic struck.
 
Black Friday and Cyber Monday discounts have failed to boost High Street sales. Springboard’s retail data showed footfall last month was down 14.5% compared to 2019 levels, before the pandemic hit. In October it had been down 13.4% compared to pre-pandemic times. However, the situation has improved from July, when footfall was 24.2% below the 2019 level, Yahoo Finance UKreports. In November, footfall declined by 15.8% in high streets, 22% in shopping centres and 3.6% in retail parks when compared to two years ago. The fact that 53% of those employed are continuing to work from home for at least part of the week, plus the lack of international tourism and a move to online shopping exacerbated by lockdowns are reasons given.
 
Zog Energy has become the latest casualty of the energy market crisis, as smaller suppliers continue to buckle under mounting wholesale costs. The company said on its website that it is ceasing to trade, advising its 11,700 customers that their gas and electricity supplies would not be affected. This is the 25th firm regulator Ofgem has had to manage in the last three months.
 
Cyber security firm Darktrace and chemicals and engineering company Johnson Matthey will lose their places in the FTSE 100 on 20th December, to be replaced by electrical product distributor Electrocomponents and Dechra Pharmaceuticals. Companies are ranked every three months, with the latest change being based on company share prices on November 30. Darktrace launched on the London Stock Exchange in April and bolted into the index after an incredibly strong start. However, the company’s shares have plunged by 52% since their record high in September. Johnson Matthey meanwhile has declined since the announcement it will not be pursuing plans to supply batteries for electric vehicles.
 
Heathrow Airport has now reopened Terminal 4 as a dedicated facility for processing “red list” arrivals now it has been resurrected for 10 southern African countries due to concerns about the Omicron coronavirus variant. People entering the UK from those locations must spend 11 nights in a quarantine hotel at a cost estimated at £2,285 for solo travellers. Heathrow closed its original red list arrivals facility at Terminal 3 in early November when the final seven countries on the list were removed.
 
British pharma GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) has had a drug treatment which it says works against the new Omicron variant of Covid-19 approved by UK regulators. Xevudy (sotrovimab), has been found to cut hospital admission and death by 79% in those at risk, GSK says. The monoclonal antibody has been authorised by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) for people with mild to moderate Covid-19 who are at high risk of developing severe disease. The Government has ordered around 100,000 doses of the drug.
 
BP plc has announced plans to establish a massive green hydrogen production facility in England to support the country's transition away from fossil fuels, says Zacks. Known as HyGreen Teesside, the project is expected to deliver up to 500-megawatt electrical input (MWe) of hydrogen production by 2030. In the initial stage, the project aims to produce 60 MWe of green hydrogen by 2025.
 
UK Commercial Property REIT has bought three new warehouses being built near Gatwick airport via £25m in forward funding. The asset is expected to show an attractive development yield of 5.8% a year, the company said yesterday, when the buildings are completed in early summer next year and deliver a total of 107,000 sq ft of new multi let industrial space. Two of the units, covering 56% of the total, are already pre let on a 15 year lease to geoscience technology company CGG Services, at an average rent of £13 per sq ft.
 
Japanese conglomerate Fujifilm is making the largest investment in UK pharmaceuticals manufacturing in decades, spending £400 million to double the size of its Teesside plant. The huge investment is expected to create 350 jobs.
 
Walt Disney has elected a woman to become its chairman for the first time in the entertainment giant's 98-year history. Susan Arnold, who has been a Disney board member for 14 years, will succeed Bob Iger at the end of this year. She was formerly an executive at global investment firm Carlyle. Iger stepped down as Disney's chief executive in 2020 after 15 years in the role
 
Tel Aviv has been named as the most expensive city in the world to live in. The Israeli city came top for the first time in a survey by the Economist Intelligence Unit, climbing from fifth place last year and pushing Paris down to joint second with Singapore. Damascus, in war-torn Syria, retained its place as the cheapest in the world, the BBC reports. The survey compares costs in US dollars for goods and services in 173 cities.


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