Last weekend I had the privilege of joining Gordon Brown and Ed Miliband at the launch of the Labour Party Green Manifesto. Big promises about combating climate change, energy security, and green job growth can be a little abstract. I wanted to take a little time to let you know some of what Labour’s green programme can mean for you, at home, in Westminster.
First, a warmer and more efficient home. Labour’s policy is to, “insulate every loft and cavity wall where practical by 2015.” If you own your property you will be offered subsidies. Rented properties will be required to be properly insulated and social housing will need to meet a new Warm Home Standard. Energy efficiency measures for social tenants will be 100% subsidised, including smart meters, which can help any family use less energy. As anyone who has switched energy providers in the last few years will know, the energy companies do not make it simple to chose between the dozens of tariff options. Labour policy would require energy companies to simplify their tariffs to make it easier for people to chose the cheapest option for their home.
Second, if you need to keep a car in London, Labour will provide subsidies of up to £5,000 to switch to an electric vehicle and support a nationwide network of charging stations, 100,000 by the end of the next Parliament. The ideal place to deploy an electric fleet is in a city centre like London where noise and pollution are concentrated. The Cities of London and Westminster is unique in that it is almost entirely within the London Congestion Charge which creates an unintended disincentive for switching to an electric vehicle. The owner of a vehicle in Tower Hamlets, or Westminster residents just outside the Congestion Charge Zone near Regents Park, if they buy an annual pass, will save £1696 a year by switching to an electric vehicle and avoiding the Congestion Charge. Just these savings alone make it much easier to justify the economics of buying an electric vehicle. I feel that Westminster and City of London residents need additional incentives to move toward switching to electric vehicles.
Finally, Labour will protect energy subsidies for the elderly and require energy companies to provide discounted tariffs to vulnerable customers. The last few years have taught us that fuel prices are volatile and for people on a fixed or low income fuel poverty is a real threat. I believe no one in Westminster should go cold because they cannot afford a fuel bill.
I know it sounds simplistic to say, but we have all become used to just plugging things into a socket and turning them on. The facts are climate change and energy security require that over the next few decades Britain and the rest of Europe need to rebuild the entire energy infrastructure behind those sockets and do it with out ever turning them off. We are the fortunate ones in Britain, compared to our European neighbours we are extraordinarily blessed with renewable energy sources, especially wind and tidal. David Cameron has called wind turbines ‘bird blenders’, so it is no surprise that Tory councils across the country have been far less willing to approve new wind farms than Labour equivalents. We need Labour’s proven leadership on energy policy.