Could devolution cash help make city's housing greener? 🏑

It's Shaun here with another Wednesday round up.

Could devolution cash help make city's housing greener? 🏑
A new report says urgent action is needed to eco-upgrade Norwich's 14,500 council homes

Greetings from The Seeker!

It's Shaun here with another Wednesday round up.

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πŸ“°Today's edition

  • Fit for purpose
  • Flood watch
  • Museum Mystery
  • More aboard
  • Business builders
  • Back home
  • Jobs post
  • Out and about

Right let's get going!

Fit for purpose

City councillors Keith Driver (Labour), Lucy Galvin (Greens), and Caroline Ackroyd (Liberal Democrat with an air source water heater. Photo: Submitted

When Chancellor Jeremy Hunt delivers his autumn statement this week we'll see how much delivering Net Zero remains among the government's ambitions.

But closer to home a cross party group of Norwich City councillors believe they might have a locally-sourced solution.

In a 92 page report - Warm, Low Bills, No Carbon - a plan for Norwich's council homes - the scrutiny committee details 21 steps needed to ensure a step change in cutting carbon emissions across the city's 14,500 council houses.

Why it matters

Housing accounts for 20pc of all UK carbon emissions so a retrofitting programme, including fitting homes with insulation, solar panels, and heat pumps, could make a radical difference.

The report, which canvassed a range of views including from social housing provider Flagship, notes that as well as cutting carbon and reducing heating bills, it could also boost jobs particularly if people are trained locally to carry out the work.

City Hall has already committed Β£290 million to carry out work between now and 2050 and has been successful in securing funds for schemes across Norwich.

Show me the money

But the costs of a citywide programme dwarfs the sums set aside so options being considered are raising money through municipal bonds, and district-wide heating networks.

Another option in the paper is whether the Norfolk Devolution Deal could provide access to cash - if it ever sees the light of day, that is.

The County Deal could see an extra Β£600m heading our way over the next 30 years to boost things like jobs and skills and the report notes that similar devolution deals in Manchester and Leeds have helped pay for retrofitting schemes.

Yet if city and county councillors can't even agree among themselves whether to keep Exchange Street closed to cars, then it might be too much to ask for the idea to be seriously considered.

Some opposition county councillors have also wondered to me whether the ruling Conservative administration at County Hall might be tempted to ring-fence some of the devolution cash to pay for parts of the proposed Western Link road.

Another problem the scrutiny committee found is that council tenants themselves aren't keen on having their homes pulled about, so one idea is to work on selected projects such as community centres so people can start to see the benefits.

Step change

Lucy Galvin, Green councillor and chair of the scrutiny committee, said it was down to the government to deliver the step change needed.

"A fifth of our carbon comes from homes, and energy costs have doubled over the last two years," she notes. "Retrofitting helps improve health and gives people cash in their pockets in terms of the money they save.

"We have found an overwhelming case to get on with this. It's about scaling this up at pace."