At this point it seems like the Green Deal just can't catch a break. After a humiliating first year it seemed like things were picking up for the Government's flagship energy scheme, but it will now be investigated by Parliament's spending watchdog after it was revealed that a staggering £36 million was spent on the scheme in the last 12 months.

A report from the Independent highlighted some of the spending the scheme made on promotion in February, including:

  • Over £300,000 on "consumer demand, marketing and communications". This included a £100,000 rebranding exercise.
  • £227,000 to a single consultancy company on Green Deal monitoring and evaluation.
  • £20,000's worth of fees to part-time staff helping to run the scheme. This is in addition to the plan's full-time civil servants.

The criticism of the scheme came following the publication of the latest uptake figures for March, released by the DECC last week. While the figures show that there is a rise in households seeking assessments and installing energy-saving measures, the increase perhaps isn't quite enough to have justified this level of spending. The report said that currently 2000 households had plans in progress by the end of March, a slight step up from February's 1754.

Meanwhile 188,234 green assessements were lodged, which is a big increase over the previous month's 25,138. The increase of 163,096 marks the highest number logged and a rise of 40%.

As for Green Deal Plans, 2,000 household were shown to have plans 'in progress'. Five hundred and thirty two were 'new' (quote accepted), 473 were marked as 'pending' (Plan signed) and 995 were 'live' (all measures installed). Of the measures installed, boilers accounted for 30%, followed by photovoltaics (25%), solid wall insulation (17%) and loft insulation (9%).

A spokesperson for the DECC commented saying that the Green Deal was always a "long-term" project that would deliver results "over a long time frame", but that didn't stop detractors from speaking out. House of Commons Public Accounts Committee chairman Margaret Hodge had this to say:

"It is pathetic when you consider that the Coalition promised to be the greenest government ever yet is spending millions of pounds on a scheme that is not even performing at the margins. Sadly, the Green Deal is looking like it is extremely poor value for money."

Is the Green Deal beyond salvagable at this stage?

Chancellor George Osbourne announced the 2014 Budget in Parliament yesterday and among it was some encouraging news for the housing market, with new housing supplies being a central theme.

Prior to the official announcement, the Chancellor had already revealed that the Government's Help to Buy scheme would be extended in 2020. This decision already guaranteed  that housebuilders would be needed to work on additional sites, with a projected 120,000 people estimated to be looking to purchase a home. However with Britain still climbing out of its recession, care has been taken to ensure that the market doesn't bite off more than it can chew. The Bank of England has been commanded to stay wary of house prices, long with further reforms put forward to ensure the building of these new homes goes smoothly.

While the larger house building corporations have the finances to put forward new build projects, the same can't always be said for the small and medium enterprises (SMEs). Which is why the Government is creating a £500 million Builders Finance Fund, intended to help SMEs that struggle with bank lending. In doing so, it is forecast that 15,000 stalled plots will now go into motion again. In addition to this, there will also be a £150 million fun to kick start regenerating housing estates through repayable loans.

In addition to this, a "Right to Build" scheme has also been proposed, which will give assistance to those wishing to build their own homes by giving them a right to a plot from the local authorities. This scheme is also backed by a £150 million repayable fund to help provide 10,000 serviced plots for custom house builds. Finally the Government continued its committment to 'zero carbon homes' that was previously mentioned last year by planning to have them implemented from 2016. A response to last year's consultation about it is to follow soon.

So with even more confirmation that house building is going to become a big industry in the UK for the next few years, new construction workers are going to be more crucial than ever.If you've ever considered starting a new career as a bricklayer, plasterer, tiler or carpenter, there hasn't been a better time to join this exciting and expanding industry. But first you'll need the skills and qualifications required to become a professional, and that's where Access Training can help. Give us a call on 0800 345 7492 to find out more about our construction training courses, designed to give you professional level skills in the fraction of time you'd find elsewhere - without any of the quality lost!

The apparent skills shortage and lack of young people joining the construction sector continues to be a burning issue for the industry, training centres, colleges and awarding bodies alike. Construction productivity has been steadily growing over the past few months and is expected to continue in the next few years, however a significant portion of the existing workforce is set to retire and meanwhile schools seem to be actively discouraging leaving students to take up vocational careers in the industry. These things mixed together sound like a recipe for disaster, so it's no wonder that the CITB have referred to the incoming scenario as a "ticking time bomb". Something needs to be done, and the first port of call is better promotion of apprenticeships and an eventual career in the construction industry to young adults - namely 16-25 year olds. And the Chartered Institute of Building (CIOB), Construction Training Industry Board (CITB) and City & Guilds have all been doing research into how this can be achieved.

To begin, the CIOB and CITB joined forces last month to help produce a cross-party parliamentary enquiry entitled "No more lost generations: Creating construction jobs for young people". The cover of the 23-page report sums up the problem succinctly - Britain has one million NEETs (Not in education, employment or training) aged 16-24, and there are at least 182,000 construction jobs to be filled by 2018. However only 7,280 completed a construction apprenticeship last year - prompting the bodies' to firmly say "We have to do better."

Amongst the full report, which highlights the difficult economic recession the construction industry went through and how its recovery is progressing, a number of different strategies are suggested to solve this very real problem. These include:

  • Improving understanding in schools of the wide variety of careers the construction industry offers. This includes traditional crafts, management and even computer-based modelling.
  • Making it easier for young people to find an appropriate entry route into the industry - whether it be through apprenticeships or qualifications.
  • Ensuring training programmes are better linked to the nature of jobs likely to be available
  • Using the levers available through public-sector procurement and the planning system to require realistic and effective training and employment commitments from employers.
  • Securing greater commitment and buy-in from industry leaders.

The report also put forward a selection of proposed actions to help bring about these improvements, including a training summit between the CITB and Department for Business, Innovation and Skills with backing from the Construction Leadership Council. Additional measures suggested included a revitalised apprenticeship strategy, local authorities to leverage planning obligations, more leadership from social landlords and public bodies and finally a step change in the careers advice young people receive.

Meanwhile City & Guilds own research, titled "Building Futures on Shifting Foundations", looked at what skills, education and training was currently required by the construction industry. It took a sample of 344 respondents - made up of 168 senior managers from construction businesses and 176 education providers who deliver qualifications needed to break into the industry. The research was done in relation to Construction 2025, a joint strategy between the Government and Industry that sets out how Britain could be at the forefront of global construction in the future. 

The survey identified that employers do indeed recognise a skills gap when it comes to driving the construction industry forward, with the main skills they felt lacking being:

  • Trade skills - 42% recognising a gap
  • Maths and English - 39% recognising a gap
  • Problem solving - 35% recognising a gap
  • Technical skills - 31% recognising  a gap

Most importantly though the survey revealed although apprenticeships may be the key to fixing the industry's problems, employers aren't utilising this vital role. The survey found:

  • 42% of businesses said that they currently employ no apprentices
  • 40% said apprentices made up less than 1% of their workforce
  • Just over half (56%) said they don't plan to take on any apprentices in the next year
Problems cited by these employers included "funding issues" and "uncertainty around my firm's workload", however a significant proportion (70%) recognised the financial support they could receive by taking on an apprentice. They also questioned respondents on the Richard Review - an independent report issued to review the current apprenticeship system and identify how it can changed to meet the needs of the future economy. While half (49%) admitted that they had not heard of the report before, upon learning more about it 56% agreed it is important for the future of the construction industry. 

For more in-depth detail, read the full reports here:

CIOB/CITB: No More Lost Generations: Creating construction jobs for
young people (PDF)

City & Guilds: Building Futures on Shifting Foundations (PDF)

 

The outlook is currently very bright for the construction industry, however in order for things to work out successfully the path it must take is clear. Official bodies of all different origin agree that young people taking up a career in construction in the key to plugging this skills shortage and ensuring that the construction "boom" really is a boom. Careers in bricklaying, carpentry, plastering, tiling and painting/decorating are not the stereotypical jobs many media outlets portray them to be. As well as the crucial element of skill and technique required by them, these active careers are varied and exciting - with workers citing them as among the happiest of careers as well as enjoying an impressive salary. If academic education doesn't appeal to you or you want to enter a line of work where this is actually a place for you, then a construction career may be just what you're looking for and Access Training is right here to help. We offer intensive training courses in all construction trades, making us one of the most varied training centres in the UK. At our state-of-the-art training centre just on the outskirts of Cardiff city centre you'll be able to learn the vital skills from experienced professionals, earning the necessary qualifications in a fraction of the time you would with a college course - without skimping on any of the quality!

To find out more about what we can offer you here at Access to kickstart your new career in the fastest and most effective way possible, give our advice team a call on 0800 345 7492.

The Green Deal has just had its first birthday, and unfortunately it hasn't been such a great year for the UK Government's flagship energy efficiency programme. 

Official figures have revealed that only 626 houses have live Green Deal plans in place, which is nowhere near the 10,000 figures minsters were expecting to be in place. As of December, only a total of 1,612 houses had made plans overall.

While assessments had never really been on the rise, they notably declined by 21% during December, which the government attributed to the Christmas holidays. However several leading green energy groups have spoken out against the Green Deal's poor statistics, stressing that the Government needs to try a lot hard in order for it to succeed.

The Federation of Master Builders has given the first year of the Green Deal a "report card" rating of two out of five, commenting that is has "not achieved the desired results in its first full year, with the majority of SME installers and home owners failing to engage". Chief Executive Brian Berry called the financial package "unattractive to most consumers". He also went on to say how the programme simply doesn't stack up against other high-street money saving alternatives such as loans and credit cards available at more competitive rates. His suggestions to improve the Green Deal were:

"The single most effective measure to kick-start demand would be to reduce the rate of VAT from 20% to 5% on all domestic repair and maintenance work, including energy-efficiency improvements. This would be a real incentive to home owners across the board to think about getting a professional tradesperson in to quote on a variety of repair and maintenance projects."

Meanwhile the UK Green Building Council also had things to say about the figures, calling it a "a wake-up call to the Government" that it is not delivering. Chief Excutive Paul King suggested that the Government must "recognise energy efficiency as a national infrastructure priority and be prepared to delve into its purse to make its flagship policy more appealing through stronger incentives and more attractive finance options"

But despite its failings, the Government have announced that they plan to stick by the Green Deal, and believe that although its hard a slow start (to put it lightly) 2014 will definitely be the year it takes off. Climate Change minister Greg Barker "acknowledged" that things hadn't developed the way the government had anticipated at a conference yesterday, he still though its first year had been an "encouraging start".

He also commented that the supply chain was now in place, with more than 125 Green Deal providers at the ready along with 2900 individual advisers and 2300 organistations officially approved to carry out installations. Procedures are also set to be simplified by the newly established Green Deal Working Group, with further alterations and improvements to be announced over the coming weeks.

So will 2014 fare better for the Green Deal? It's too early to say, but if these numbers are anything to go by then it doesn't look like it can do much worse.

Yesterday it was announced that the Welsh Government has issued new procurement guidance to allow public sector bodies to exclude contractors known to be using blacklists from bidding for contracts.

Welsh Finance Minister Jane Hutt said: "The use of blacklists is wholly unacceptable and I fully sympathise with the individuals and their families who have suffered a terrible injustice as a consequence of contractors engaging in this practice.

“Procurement is an important part of the overall policy toolkit of the Welsh Government.  Under no circumstances is it acceptable for any business in receipt of public procurement expenditure to use blacklists. I am determined to take action in Wales. I trust that other Governments in the UK will take similar action if they have not already done so."

The ban will supposedly only cover firms found to be still operating blacklists. Contractors involved the construction trade’s infamous blacklist scandal will still be able to bid for Welsh work provided they have apologised publicly.

Andy Richards, secretary for Unite Wales, added: “The Welsh government’s action to rid Wales of the scourge of blacklisting by ensuring that those who practice blacklisting do not benefit from public contracts is to be commended.  

We look forward to working with the Welsh government to put this policy into practice and urge other governments across the UK to follow suit in bringing in tougher laws to call time on blacklisting everywhere.”

Via Construction Enquirer

New Government figures from the Department for Communities and Local Government have shown an impressive surge in house building between April and June this year.

The statistics show that during this period there were a total of 29,510 new homes started - 6% highter than the previous quarter, and a third higher than the same time last year. Seasonally adjusted private enterprise completions increased by 11%.

This growth in the construction sector has been attribued to the wide range of government measures currently in play, which have also led to the hightest number of first-time buyers and lowest level of repossessions since 2007.  These include;

  • New housing supply at its highest level since 2008, with a total 334,000 new homes built in England over the past 3 years
  • Over 150,000 new affordable homes built over the past 3 years thanks to the wide range of affordable housing programmes, including £19.5 billion of public and private investment over this Spending Review, and over £22 billion investment in the 3 years after that.
  • Interest rates kept low thanks to government action to tackle the deficit inherited from the last administration.
  • Over 10,000 reservations for newly-built homes in just the first 4 months of the government’s Help to Buy: Equity Loan scheme.
  • The Funding for Lending scheme, which has increased the availability of competitively priced mortgages.

Communities Minister Brandon Lewis said: "Under the last administration, housebuilding fell to its lowest peacetime rate since the 1920s. But today’s figures clearly show government action is bringing confidence back into the housing market and getting Britain building again, with starts increasing by a third year-on-year. We’ve already delivered over 330,000 new homes over the past 3 years, and 150,000 affordable homes. There is more to do, but today’s figures reinforce the momentum towards getting Britain building again."

Of course these houses are going to need a lot of work done of them before they're inhabitable, and this is where you come in. The market is going to need electricians, plumbers, gas engineers, bricklayers, plasterers, carpenters, tilers and decorators - and if you've every considered entering one of the trades, an Access Training course is all you need to do it. We get you the necessary qualifications to enter your chosen trade and start your journey to a career filled with success and variety. To find out more call us on 0800 345 7492 today.

It’s happened to us all at some time or other, the job we have been putting off because it’s a little bit too big or we’re not sure how to do it. We bite the bullet and decide to get a tradesman in to do the work for us. Which tradesman? Where do we go to find out if the voice at the end of the phone is in fact a ‘quality’ tradesman and not John Wayne with a screwdriver?

You could go to www.trustmark.org.uk

TrustMark is a government endorsed scheme that regularly checks that the registered tradesmen are providing their customers with the quality service and workmanship members of the public expect and deserve (quite rightly). Trustmark registered firms have to;

  1. A firm's technical skills have been independently checked through regular on-site inspections, as well as checks on their trading record and financial status;
  2. Firms have signed up to a code of practice that includes insurance, good health and safety practices and customer care;
  3. The approved scheme operator has checked and will continue to monitor the firm's quality of work, trading practices and customer satisfaction;
  4. Firms are able to offer an Insurance Backed Warranty;
  5. Deposit Protection Insurance is available for consumers in the event a firm should cease trading;
  6. Firms will be able to tell you about any building regulations you must comply with and may also be able to provide appropriate certificates;
  7. If you have a problem or disagreement with the firm, there will be a clear and user-friendly complaints procedure to help resolve the issue;
  8. The scheme is fully supported by Government, the building industry and consumer protection groups.
  9. All of these checks will give you - Peace of Mind.

When employing a tradesman TrustMark recommends you take the following advice;

  • Be specific and set out a detailed, clear brief when requesting at least three quotes.
  • Ask friends and family for a recommendation and check the TrustMark website to ensure that the tradesman is registered for the particular trades you require
  • Use a firm that advertises using a landline phone number and be very wary of those only willing to give you a mobile number
  • Seek references, speak to previous customers and if a reasonable sized job, visit previous jobs
  • Don't just go with the cheapest, consider your ability to communicate with the firm and the quality of their work
  • Only pay for work that has been done and not by advance payments
  • If materials need to be bought in advance by the tradesman, it is reasonable that the customer is asked to pay a fair percentage of these costs as the job progresses
  • Always use a written contract as it offers you protection if anything does go wrong
  • Agree in writing any changes to the agreed contract value and ensure these are agreed in writing before the work is done.

If you use a TrustMark tradesman your work should be carried out to a high quality and if things go wrong (God forbid) you, through the scheme, have a means of recourse. That has to give you Peace of mind.

- Mark Jenkins

 

Mark Jenkins is the Electrical Course Development Manager at Access Training. If you would like to learn more about electrical work and maintenance, you might want to consider one of the many electrical training courses we offer. These are available for both DIY enthusiasts AND people looking to gain the vital qualifications needed to make the career change to become an electrician. To find out more give us a call on 0800 345 7492.

The Government are now offering a total of £19 million of funding towards coming up with new methods of energy efficiency and reducing the country's carbon footprint. And if you're an entrepreneur with some new and innovative ideas in mind, they're offering a share of that money to you!

This funding is the second phase of the Energy Entrepreneurs Fund, which since autumn 2012 has allocated £16 million toward the introduction of new products in the renewables sector. Previous examples have included energy/heat storage, tidal turbine testing, a thermally-insulating window and the "Eco power shower".

Energy secretary Edward Davey has said: "We’re on the side of innovative businesses and individuals with drive, passion, ideas and entrepreneurial spirit. This funding will get ideas off the ground and into the market, create new green jobs, and help the UK get ahead in the innovation global race.

"An ambitious and driven small business sector can steer the economic recovery in the right direction. So I want to see Britain’s brightest and best SMEs sending in their applications."

The scheme will be seeking the best ideas from both the public and private sectors, aiming to assist small and medium business enterprises. Subject to the demand and quality of applications, the DECC expects to open Calls for projects every four to six months from June 2013 until the full funding has been allocated. During the application process, applicants will be expected to demonstrate a robust evidence based case for funding, that will include but not be limited to:

 

  • the potential impact of the innovation on 2020 and/or 2050 low carbon targets or security of supply
  • the technical viability of their innovation and coherent development plan that will commercially progress the innovation; value for money
  • the size and nature of the business opportunity.
The deadline for the first call for applications is the 12th July. Interested applicants will need to register their contact details HERE before the 5th July.

 

View the amended Part P Document here: planningportal.gov.uk

As of last month the Government has wheeled out its latest changes to Part P of the Building Regulations in an attempt to cut down on the amount of “red tape”. In the eight years since its introduction Part P has been a vital measure in maintaining safety when it comes to electrical installations, making sure that professional electricians have the skill and competency needed to perform these tasks. In order to do certain installations, electricians (and DIYers) are required to gain their Part P certificate and join a Competent Person Scheme such as NICEIC, NAPIT or ELECSA.

The main change to the document is that it is now shorter and has greater clarity, with a notable reduction to the number of works that need to be notified to Local Authority Building Control. The full breakdown of changes is

  • Under the new regulations, any electrical work undertaken in kitchens or outdoors in no longer covered by Part P unless a new circuit is required. 
  • While before installers not registered with a Competent Person Scheme would have to notify their work so that a third-party inspector would need to check it, now these installers can instead use a registered third-party (e.g. another electrician) to sign off their work. This eliminates the cost of producing Building Regulations Compliance Certificates for some minor works, but importantly, the new regulations still retain the need to issue Electrical Installation Certificate Reports (EICRs) for all work carried out within a dwelling.
  • Reference is now made to BS 7671:2008 incorporating Amendment No. 1:2011.

The main positive that has come out of these changes is the potential new areas of work it opens up for Part P qualified electricians who can earn more from inspecting and signing off other people’s work. Organisations have also commended this new streamlined document for not compromising on safety.

However while the ESC (Electrical Safety Council) has praised the fact the Government is amending Part P, they have expressed concern over some of the changes. They believe that the areas that have seen a reduction in notifiable are reasonably high-risk according to data, and so “any electrical work must be of a particularly high standard”.

The third-party certification is also still in question, as the rules for the Approved Inspector Scheme are currently unclear. The document itself is likely to go under review again in 2015.

Just over a month after the announcement that the start of the Renewable Heat Incentive would be delayed until Spring 2014, the UK Government has also delayed the introduction of proposed "smart meters" to 30 million homes until Autumn 2015.

The £11.7 billion project has been considered vital to getting householders to cut their energy use as the country faces having to import more energy in the future. These smart meters record consumption of gas and electricity in hourly intervals, regularly communicating the information back to the utility provider for monitoring and billing purposes. While the project is set to start in 2015, its estimated that the move to install these into every home won't be completed until 2020.

Angela Knight, chief executive of Energy UK, noted that installing these meters is going to be a "complex task" and this delay will allow the changeover to happen more efficiently. She said: "We welcome the government's prudent decision to allow an additional 12 months to complete the smart meter programme. This recognises the scale of the programme and the need to prepare carefully."

Energy Secretary Ed Davey added: "Completing the national rollout will be an enormous logistical and technical challenge for the industry. Getting this right for consumers is the government's priority."

However the Government will be taking measures to speed up the introduction despite delays. From the end of 2013, when a customer switches from a supplier who has provided them with a smart meter, the new supplier has to either rent the previous supplier’s meter or install their own smart meter, helping to gradually phase out old equipment. This also makes sure that suppliers don’t lose out when they become early adopters. There are also proposals to require energy suppliers and network operators to comply with the Smart Energy Code and ensure their smart meters really perform their advanced functions and supply data to customers.

Further reading: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-22480068

http://www.techweekeurope.co.uk/news/smart-meter-roll-out-delayed-until-autumn-2015-116011

http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/70d66e86-b97b-11e2-bc57-00144feabdc0.html#axzz2TFaAEogR

The Government has sparked more frustration from industry members as it announced yet another delay to the start of the long-awaited Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI).

The scheme, which was designed to encourage renewable heating systems to be installed in domestic properties and offer money towards those who have fitted renewable heating products, was meant to launch this Autumn but has now been pushed back until Spring 2014.

Greg Barker, the Energy and Climate Change Minister, said: "The RHI, which has been available for non-domestic investors for over a year, is a key part of our approach to cutting carbon and driving forward the move to more sustainable low carbon heating alternatives."

"We remain committed to introducing an incentive scheme for householders too, and have set out an updated timetable for its launch alongside new plans to extend our renewable heat voucher scheme in the meantime."

However this isn't enough for many leading industry members, who have vocally expressed their disappointment at the delay. Jim Moore, of leading heating and boiling manufacturers the Vaillant Group has said: "The Government now needs to deliver on its latest deadline to assist in stimulating increased uptake of renewables in the UK as has been demonstrated as effective in so many European markets."

Elsewhere, chief executive of the Micropower Council Dave Sowden has commented: "Taken with the delay in confirmed the next steps of the 'zero carbon homes' policy, the announcement is forcing the industry to question whether the Coalition is serious about promoting domestic renewable heat during this Parliament."

Coinciding with this announcement was also an action plan looking at the potential to cut emissions from heat across the whole of the UK economy. It focuses on a number of key actions in an attempt to spur on the move to low carbon heating alternatives and drive forward green growth. These include;

  • A £9 million package to help local authorities get heat network schemes up and running in towns and cities across the country, with a new Heat Networks Delivery Unit to sit within the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) providing expert advice.
  • £1 million for Manchester, Leeds, Newcastle, Sheffield and Nottingham to help them develop heat networks.
  • 100 green apprenticeships to be funded primarily for young people in small scale renewable technologies.
  • Up to £250,000 for a new first-come-first-served voucher scheme for heating installers to get money off the cost of renewable heating kit installation training, with up for £500 or 75% of the cost of the training per person.
  • Working with individual industrial sectors to design long-term pathways to cut carbon across UK industry.