You’ve probably heard of the Each Home Counts Review by now. It was a consultation carried out by Dr Peter Bonfield OBE on behalf of the Government to discover how home owners can be properly protected and advised when it comes to energy efficient home improvement measures.

Well that report has been published and these are some of the main bullet points:

  • there should be a new “Quality Mark” introduced – including a consumer charter, code of conduct and a code of practice
  • an information hub that serves both the industry and the general public, and would be a go-to for installers and customers on things like code of conduct and best practices
  • focus on the quality of installations

There are some more bullet points worth reading, but don’t apply to our industry specifically. You can read those here. Judging by the report, it sounds like the Government is finally waking up to some of the real reasons why home owners might be hesitant on getting home improvement works done. If these recommendations can actually start to clean up all home improvement industries and encourage home owners to get more work done, then it’s a big tick for all.

But will this report actually be good for the window and door industry?

More words or actual promise?

When it comes to reports like this I always taken them with a barrel of salt. More often than not they come to nothing. Remember David Cameron’s promise of three million new apprenticeship places by the end of this Parliament? Well we’re nearly halfway through and I don’t see a single apprentice place being created by that specific report.

It has been announced that the Government has to help to insulate 25m homes to meet improved regulations by 2050. A huge number that it will most likely miss it’s target. We need to build at least 270,000 new houses a year to ease the housing crisis, and we’re nowhere near that. So you’ll excuse me if I don’t believe that this report will actually garner anything good. It will most likely be kicked into the long grass as Brexit and other bigger UK problems take centre stage.

Lets say the Government does introduce a new scheme with the above bullet points as a framework. That would pose some challenges. For example, it would likely need to create a brand new body to oversee things like qualifications, awards, installation assessment etc. You create that and it would render a lot of the established glazing industry bodies useless overnight. You couldn’t ask an existing one to do it because the whole idea is to create a new infrastructure that would gain the trust of industry and public alike. I can’t see our existing industry glazing bodies campaigning for such a thing.

Secondly, remember how badly the Green Deal did? That whole thing was a mess from start to finish. It failed because it was far too complicated and very poorly communicated by Government to the general public. Everyone said it would fail, and before long, it did indeed do that.

If there is to be another scheme, then it really does have to be massively different, streamlined and much better communicated by the Government to it’s target audience. Which is a big one by the way. 25 million homes need to be insulated in a programme that really should be starting now. That’s a massive new industry created overnight by just a single report.

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Is another scheme really required?

Forget all home improvement sectors for the moment and just focus on the glazing sector. We’re already getting crowded with industry bodies, schemes and qualifications already. FENSA, GGF, Helix Group, RISA, BFRC, Certass, Corgi Fenestration, National Federation Of Glaziers. That’s not all of them. It’s an already crowded market place, would another body, required to implement this new “Quality Mark”, just be lost in the noise of everything else? My guess is yes.

I don’t believe that we need yet another new scheme. What would generate more energy efficiency measures business very quickly would be the lowering of VAT on energy efficient windows and doors to 5%. Maybe even 2.5%. Or even better, 0%. Although the last one is never going to happen.

Lower VAT has been available on other home improvement energy efficiency measures for a while now, and home owners have been able to benefit from those savings. Not in the glazing sector though. Home owners have had to pay full VAT on windows and doors. This despite much of a home’s heat being lost through older generation glazing. I maintain that if the VAT rate was dropped to 5%, it would immediately spark a massive response from home owners, more than making up for the 15% drop in Government revenues that would be lost.

On the legislation side of things, we already have the infrastructure there. There are a wealth of consumer protection laws, and a menu of bodies and trade organisations that the Government could lean on to make sure that the laws and regs being created are actually implemented and enforced. I think the creation of a new “Quality Mark” and the inevitable new organisation that would have to be created to make that work would likely confuse rather than inform.

As we move forward, we’ll see if anything does actually come of this, or whether it will be kicked into the long grass and be resurfaced when the political climate is a bit calmer.

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