A smart meter sits on a table, in the background someone holds a mug.

Suffolk Public Sector Leaders (SPSL) unanimously agreed funding today to create a new Fuel Poverty Retrofit Team, helping those most affected by the rising cost-of-living.

It will be part of the Warm Homes Suffolk scheme, which was jointly established by Suffolk County Council, Babergh and Mid Suffolk Councils, West Suffolk Council, East Suffolk Council and Ipswich Borough Council in 2021. The scheme is a source of expert advice on reducing energy bills and in identifying benefits that residents may be entitled to.

This winter, Warm Homes Suffolk extends its support further with the creation of a Fuel Poverty Retrofit Team: supporting residents in energy-inefficient homes, struggling most to afford rising energy bills.

More than 62,000 properties in the county are thought to have the worst Energy Performance Certificates (EPC) of E, F or G. And an estimated 28% of homes – 95,000 households – are in fuel poverty, almost double the number in 2019.

SPSL today pledged £366,000 to create the new team to tackle the challenges, with a further £390,000 of funding underwritten.

Alongside existing funding, the team will cost £1,296,000 over three years. The projected value of the work completed is set to be £50m, with combined potential savings for householders of nearly £4.8m.

Measures could include the installation of insulation, fitting air source heat pumps and replacing single glazing.

Suzie Morley, chair of Suffolk Public Sector Leaders and leader of Mid Suffolk District Council, said:

“We are determined to do everything we can to support people through these difficult times. The creation of this new team will have a meaningful, long-term impact for many households across Suffolk.

“We acknowledge this is a big job and it will take time, but it is a positive step forward. Making more homes energy efficient will lower bills, keep people warm and reduce carbon emissions.”

The new team will help secure funding, develop a pipeline of work and ensure the most vulnerable households benefit.

It will also enforce minimum standards for the private rental sector, create a loan fund for those who are just above the financial eligibility cap, and support the installer supply chain.

People can get help from Warm Homes Suffolk if their gross household income is less than £30,000 (gross and including all sources and people in the home). There is a particular desire to improve homes with EPC ratings of E, F or G.

The number of installations could now rise the current average of 250 a year, to 500 in the first year, 750 in the second, and eventually reaching up to 1,500 annually.

The action comes amid ongoing efforts among local authorities and other agencies to support people through the cost-of-living crisis.

Creation of the new team is set to address funding and resourcing challenges for energy efficiency retrofit, and ensure a consistent workflow for installers.

As well as reducing residents’ fuel bills, Warm Homes Suffolk will also help the county towards its target of Net Zero by 2030, as making homes more energy efficient will mean less carbon is released into the atmosphere. This is in line with the wider ambitions set out in Suffolk’s Climate Emergency Plan.

Councillor Andy Drummond, Chair of the Suffolk Environment Cabinet Members group, is passionate about this project:

“The new Fuel Poverty Retrofit Team is a proactive approach: retrofitting the most energy-inefficient homes to be better insulated, so that costs for households can be reduced long term through lower bills, warmer homes and better health.

“This money is a huge boost to Warm Homes Suffolk and is going to make a big difference to hundreds of residents across Suffolk. Of course, there is a lot more needed to support every home in Suffolk, but this latest will help those most in need.”

For support, advice and more information, visit www.warmhomessuffolk.org

More details about eligibility can be found on the Warm Home Suffolk website www.warmhomessuffolk.org, or by calling 03456 037 686. Lines are open Monday to Friday between 9am and 4pm.