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Key election battleground gets £2m housing grant

Key election battleground gets £2m housing grant

🕔16.Jan 2013

Most of a £2.2 million Government grant to tackle fuel poverty will be used to insulate four tower blocks in a part of Birmingham that is set to be a key battleground in the 2014 city council elections.Almost £2 million of the grant has been earmarked to improve Kendal Tower, Metchley House, Coniston House and Derwent House and will allow 212 families to cut fuel bills by an average £11 a month, according to cabinet member James McKay.

Cllr McKay, who holds the green, safe and smart city portfolio, was elected in Harborne two years ago following a major breakthrough for Labour in normally rock-solid Conservative territory.

He was quickly joined by Labour colleague Elaine Williams, who beat veteran Tory councilor and former Lord Mayor John Alden at the 2012 council elections.

The last Tory Harborne councilor left standing, Mike Whitby, the former council leader, is due to defend his seat in May 2014. Labour is bound to put every effort into securing all three Harborne seats while also hoping to claim a significant scalp.

Work planned for the tower blocks will improve thermal efficiency through measures such as a better heating system and external wall insulation. Cllr McKay said low income families could ultimately expect to save 40 per cent on their fuel bills.

Cllr McKay added: “I am very pleased that we have secured more funds to tackle some of our badly insulated tower blocks in the city.

“These funds will help enormously to provide warmer homes for the residents who are currently spending too much of their often low incomes on energy.”

The scheme will be delivered by the Birmingham Energy Savers team, a joint project between the council and Carillion Energy Services, which is already working on a project to make homes across the city more energy efficient.

And the remainder of the grant will be used to develop plans for a collective energy project to ensure that citizens get the best deal possible on their energy bills by encouraging them to work together to switch energy supplier and get a better tariff. The aim of this scheme is to encourage consumers to group together and use market power to negotiate lower energy bills and save money.

Cllr McKay added: “As we roll out our Birmingham Energy Savers programme shortly, I look forward to more benefits for a larger number of our households that are subject to high energy bills.

“I am also pleased that we will be able to fulfill one of our green priorities. The fund we have received to set up our collective energy offer will be open to all residents in Birmingham. I hope to announce details over the next few months, so that again we can secure cheaper energy through collective action ready for next winter’s fuel bills.”

Funding for the Harborne scheme comes from a £46 million national pot to help reduce fuel poverty which was approved by the Government earlier this month.

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