The mayor of the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority has defended the organisation’s handling of a multi-million pound venture to improve energy efficiency in thousands of homes.
Mayor Nik Johnson says that a variety of reasons from a shortage of craftsman to supply chain shortages had hampered progress on the so-called LAD2 scheme, which aims to raise the energy efficiency of low-income homes, and the separate Sustainable Warmth Programme.
The Government has made £80 million available for the LAD2 energy projects and a further £118 million for sustainable warmth projects yet so far just over £6 million has been spent.
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But under the terms of the Government scheme, the money had to be allocated by the end of last month.
Now the Combined Authority has submitted a request to the Government for an extension to the funding deadline, and says a spokesperson for the organisation, the Government response is still outstanding.
But the handling of the scheme has been criticised by Peterborough MP Paul Bristow.
Writing in the Peterborough Telegraph, Mr Bristow criticises the relatively small amount spent so far.
He states: “This should have meant cheaper bills and warmer homes here in Peterborough. He’s had the money for months. It was his chance to make a difference.
"Thousands of homes in Peterborough will lose out as a result.
“The Government have now paused new funding streams for the Combined Authority because he is unable to deliver.”
But a spokesperson for the Mayor said the scheme was a huge undertaking with the Combined Authority being the accountable body for the Greater South Eastern Net Zero Hub (GSENZH), which covers 136 local authorities involving 46 per cent of the population of England.
He said: “The scheme has had an overwhelming response.
But he added: "Pressures from increasing fuel prices, the cost of living and inflation is driving demand and there have already been over 13,000 households referred across the region.
“In Peterborough, 111 homes have applied to the scheme, 62 have been surveyed to date and are in the process of allocation to supply chain.
He added: “The key challenge remains the availability of supply chain across the region.
"We and our delivery partner, Warmworks, have been working hard to overcome some significant barriers to delivery, including supply chain capacity, building trust in such schemes and quality issues with Retrofit Assessors and installers.
He said: “However, more work needs to be done but we are leading the way and have held a regional round table to find solutions to develop a southeast infrastructure to support retrofit business growth, new entrants and career pathways.
“Specifically, there are a number of things the Combined Authority is already doing through its Adult Education Budget and Skills Bootcamp programme that trains residents to meet retrofit skills needs.
The spokesman added: "Skills Bootcamps will start in the summer and AEB courses in the Autumn.
"Our skills team is working closely with its education partners to access funding to develop new immersive technologies in a number of green skills including retrofitting.”