The Scottish Government must spend at least £100 million improving energy efficiency if efforts to tackle fuel poverty and meet climate change targets are to be successful, ministers have been told.
The Scottish Federation of Housing Associations (SFHA) said it was “disappointed” with the £79 million earmarked for this in the Scottish Government’s draft budget for 2013-14.
As well as calling for more cash for energy efficiency measures, the SFHA voiced concerns about the amount of cash being set aside for affordable housing.
David Stewart, the organisation’s policy manager, spoke out before giving evidence to MSPs on Holyrood’s Finance Committee as part of its work examining the Government’s spending plans.
He said: “We were disappointed at the £79 million announced for energy efficiency measures in the draft budget by the Finance Minister. This needs to be an increased to at least £100 million if fuel poverty is to be ended and climate change targets met.”
Mr Stewart argued improving the energy efficiency of homes was good for the health of those living in them.
He added that spending money on this “can also have a positive impact on the economy”, saying research had shown investing in energy efficiency was a more effective way to stimulate the economy and create jobs than alternatives such as cutting VAT or investing in capital infrastructure projects.
Mr Stewart continued: “Energy standards are soon to be introduced for housing associations which could prove expensive and it would help if the Scottish Government could support social landlords to achieve these.
“Investing now in affordable housing, community regeneration and energy efficiency can also save funds at a later stage from other budgets, such as health, social care and education. This is essential for tackling poverty, deprivation and ill health.”
Mr Stewart said the SFHA was “encouraged at the Scottish Government’s investment of £1.35 billion in affordable housing”, but added it was “concerned that this amount, spread over four years, will not be enough to build affordable and energy efficient homes for tenants, improve existing housing stock and provide tenant services - especially with the current financial pressures which the sector is facing due to welfare reform”.
He added: “Adequate government investment is essential to the continued supply of genuinely affordable social housing. Housing is expensive to build, to live in and to manage and maintain. With adequate government subsidy, Scottish housing associations can ensure that rents are set at levels that are genuinely affordable to low income households.”
A Scottish Government spokesman said it was levering in funding from power companies to boost spending on energy efficiency.
He said: “Scottish Government spending on home energy efficiency is in line with the recommendations of the Energy, Enterprise and Tourism Committee report into fuel poverty in February 2012.
“It recommended a budget of at least £200 million a year from both Government and energy company obligations.
“Scottish Government investment is levering in energy company funding to provide the investment potential of around £200 million a year. The information we have suggests that we are on track to meet that target.”