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Pre-budget report: key points and industry reaction

The Chancellor of the Exchequer Alistair Darling has been accused of ‘tinkering around the edges’ after failing to announce any major incentives to reduce carbon emissions from the existing housing stock

The key points

  • VAT to return to 17.5 per cent in Jan 2010
  • Support for small businesses with an extension of the Time to Pay scheme, continuing to defer corporation tax for SMEs and a new growth capital growth fund
  • Establishing Infrastructure UK for investment in low-carbon projects including investing €100 million in a European Investment Bank-led fund to deploy up to €1.5 billion of equity and €5 billion of debt in low-carbon infrastructure (click here for more)
  • Rolling out of smart meters and an additional £200million for energy efficiency, including a boiler scrappage scheme and tax free feed-in tariffs
  • 10,000 graduate internships for students from poorer backgrounds
  • Empty tax rates concession for small buildings extended

In his pre-budget report unveiled earlier today (9 December), Darling proposed a number of ‘energy efficiency’ measures including a new boiler scrappage scheme and rolling out of smart meters which tell homeowners how much carbon they are using.

However many, including the RIBA, feel the Chancellor has missed an opportunity to give a cash kickstart to the low carbon refurbishment industry.

Anna Scott-Marshall, head of public affairs at the RIBA, said: ‘The Chancellor rightly highlighted the low carbon skills as a priority in the week when we are seeking to reach a global deal in Copenhagen. But as he stated, a quarter of all the country’s emissions come from households and while improving heating with a boiler scrappage scheme and insulation is welcome we think that a much more ambitious programme of retrofitting existing homes needs to commence if we are to meet our carbon targets.’

Paul King, chief executive of the UK Green Building Council, said: ‘We’re still just tinkering around the edges of what is possible. Householders need help refurbishing their whole home, not just their boiler. The government…..needs to go much further much faster if we’re really going to kick start a revolution in low carbon refurbishment, and create thousands of jobs in the construction sector.’

He added: ‘The Government’s pledge to reduce public sector energy spending by 10 per cent by 2013 is welcome, but there has been a collective failure up to now to reduce emissions from the whole of the non-residential building sector, which is responsible for 18 percent of the UK’s carbon emissions. We need to see a combination of regulation and incentives to drive down emissions and the urgent rolling out of Display Energy Certificates that could give every building in the country a publicly accessible A to G rating.’

Meanwhile Chris Johnson, managing principal of Gensler in Europe, the Middle East and Asia, believes Darling has also squandered the chance to encourage investment in new ‘green’ development. He said: ‘At a time when the property market is stalled by a lack of available capital, this report is a missed opportunity to incentivise the development of real estate across the country.

‘When there is a shortage of homes across the country – a situation which is exaggerated in London – and legislation has been brought in to ensure commercial buildings reach a required energy performance, there’s no better time for the Government to encourage high performing, environmentally accredited schemes.’

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