Cllr Rachel Woods slams changes to Affordable Warmth Scheme

Green Party NI representative Rachel Woods has slammed the decision making over the Affordable Warmth Scheme.


The Green Party NI Councillor for Holywood and Clandeboye said, ‘We are being held hostage by political parties who refuse to form an Executive for Northern Ireland, in order to help address the key issues in our society today. It’s frankly disgusting that we are in this situation with a cost of living crisis and fuel poverty crisis well under way, people are heating the street rather than their homes. 


"There are some issues with the Affordable Warmth Scheme which are well known. I attended a meeting with DfC officials last year alongside a cross-party group of councillors and officers in Ards and North Down to discuss these, at a frank and honest meeting. However, whilst we understand there are problems, that the scheme itself was earmarked for being cut without appropriate replacements isn't acceptable. According to reports at Community and Wellbeing last Wednesday, only last month had officials decided to remove the Council's eligibility assessment and inspection role from September, and effectively changing the delivery model across NI and removing Councils from it.


"No Executive means less budget allocations this year, with cuts being felt by the most vulnerable across society. We must prepare for the colder months, and we must ensure that no-one else is choosing between heating and eating, as well as building a more sustainable future based on cheaper, renewable energy.


We need a fuel poverty strategy with for Northern Ireland, with effective measures in place to keep people warm. There is much we can do at a local level in the long term, through building regulations, planning and by building warmer homes. I am also calling on local Councils to ensure they are doing everything that they can to help address fuel poverty through their planning and building regulation powers. 


Despite knowing the shortcomings in our building regulations, in the previous mandate the Finance Minister only legislated for a minimum and did not address fully how we insulate all our homes. The Green Party NI, along with others, had called for all new and refurbished buildings to be insulated to the highest possible standard. We should properly insulate every house and every public building. Not only can this create apprenticeships and jobs, it also reduces energy bills. We need a windfall tax on power companies to pay for insulation and we can retrofit, street by street if the political will is there. 


I have written to the Department of Finance and the Department for Communities, and will continue to raise the need to change building regulations and the planning system, which could do much, much better at ensuring that homes built in Ards and North Down are warm and insulated, so that in the future people are not heating the street.”