I was delighted to welcome Shadow Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, Caroline Flint MP, to Oldham last week to visit the flagship £15m housing development in St Mary’s that has provided some of the greenest homes in the country.
Caroline and I dropped in on Contour Homes resident Rubana Altaf in her energy-efficient house at St Mary’s with to see the ground breaking accommodation for ourselves. Rubana lives in one of four ‘Code 6’ homes, which have a zero-carbon rating and are packed with ‘green’ features, including triple-glazing, environmentally-friendly toilets and A+ rated electrical appliances.
In addition, St Mary’s boasts two Passivhaus properties, which are super low-energy homes with no draughts, low noise and average heating bills of £20 a year.
Caroline spoke to me afterwards about how great it was to meet Rubana in her lovely home and hear how her, and her family’s lives, have been so improved by sustainable, modern housing.
Rubana’s heating bill is now much reduced but it’s sobering to think that across the country six million low income families live in homes that are far too expensive to heat and fuel bills have risen astronomically, at four times the rate wages have, since 2010.
If we win the election in May, Labour will immediately freeze energy bills up to January 2017, saving a typical household £120 and an average business £1,800. But consumers need action on energy bills now.
This could have started last Wednesday with a vote in the House of Commons on fast track legislation we proposed to tackle energy bills. This ‘zombie’ Government has had no new meaningful legislation for months, but despite this fact, Tory and Lib Dem MPs voted down our proposals in the Commons.
Labour will increase competition and transparency by forcing the energy companies to do three things. Separate out the parts of their business that generate energy from the parts that sell to consumers; sell all their energy in an open pool; and introduce a simple new tariff structure.
In addition, private landlords will have to play their part; with over 1.5 million people across the country who are struggling to pay for their heating living in the coldest private rented homes. The quality of private rented accommodation in Oldham and Saddleworth is very variable.
Nationally more than a third of homes are not up to decent standard and 15% lack minimal heat in winter and this is reflected in Oldham. Our ambition is that private rented properties will have to meet a decency standard by 2027, bringing warmth to three million homes. And for home owners Labour will provide one million interest free loans in the next Parliament, so you can heat your home and save on bills.