Herefordshire Council is to write to new Prime Minister Rishi Sunak calling for Government action on home energy efficiency and the cost of living crisis.

A motion passed at a full meeting of councillors last Friday agreed that the council should call on the PM to give “immediate further direct financial support” to help households, particularly those on low incomes, to manage the cost of living crisis.

It also asks Mr Sunak to come up a nationwide action plan “as quickly as possible” to insulate all homes and businesses, so to improve energy efficiency and reduce bills, and to immediately introduce higher energy efficiency standards for new buildings.

Lastly, it asks him to make “a commitment to keep fossil fuels in the ground, and to invest instead in developing the renewable energy technologies and businesses that are essential for our future energy security”.


Presenting the motion , cabinet member for environment and economy and Green Party group leader Coun Ellie Chowns said: “Energy efficiency could play a significant role in helping to address the immediate cost of living crisis as well as the climate crisis.

“I find it shocking that the Government has paid so little attention to energy efficiency when it is such an obvious course of action. We are still building houses that leak heat.”

She also invited Conservative councillors “to confirm their opposition to fracking and any other form of fossil fuel development”.

Dismissing the motion as “purely political”, Conservative councillor Carole Gandy said: “As a rural authority it might have been appropriate for us to raise with the Government the plight of off-gas-grid households who are struggling with the rising cost of alternative heating sources such as biomass.”

Her colleague Coun Barry Durkin disputed the alleged lack of progress on the energy efficiency of homes, saying: “Since 2010 the percentage of UK housing stock deemed to be energy efficient as increased from 10 to 45 per cent – though there is much more to be done.”

Fellow Tory Coun Paul Rone agreed that new housing should be built to the highest energy efficiency standards. But he said he could not support the motion given the continued reliance on fossil fuels “of anyone who drove here today in anything other than a 100 per cent battery-powered car”.

Conservative councillors Elissa Swinglehurst and John Stone used the debate to state their opposition to fracking in the county. But Coun Tony Johnson said fracking “is a perfectly safe way to meet our independent fuel needs”.

While supporting the motion, Liberal Democrat councillor Terry James said: “I worry about virtue signalling at council meetings.”

Independents for Herefordshire councillor William Wilding responded: “This isn’t about virtue signalling, it’s about protecting future generations.”

The motion backing the letter was passed unamended by 24 votes to six, with 11 abstentions.

A council spokesperson said sending the letter “might take a week or two, given it’s half term and it’ll need to be drafted and then run by members before we send”.

Earlier in the meeting, Coun Gandy said: “We are fortunate in that we don’t need our winter fuel allowance – but you cannot refuse it. I will donate mine to a voluntary organisation to support others less fortunate.”

She asked if the council provides a means for this, “for people like me who feel somewhat of a fraud taking it, and which lots of people will use to spend on a winter holiday, but which could go to those who need it far more”.

Deputy leader Liz Harvey said she would find out, and would look into setting up such a fund if none existed.

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