Answers needed on government sabotage of key environment programme

14 August 2019

Labour TD Alan Kelly has slammed the Government for its willingness to sabotage the environment with the cancellation of the Deep Retrofit Pilot programme with up to €20million investment in the scheme now set to be lost.

Deputy Kelly who is vice-chair of the Public Accounts Committee has said that this issue must be urgently discussed at the Public Accounts Committee with representatives from SEAI and the Departments of Climate Action and Public Expenditure.

Deputy Kelly said: 

“The Deep Retrofit Programme was to run until October of this year but SEAI have now confirmed that there is no more money available for the government led programme.

“This is the most outrageous affront on not just the environment but will lead to an absolute distrust from the public when it  comes to green related initiatives.

“Minister Richard Bruton to immediately find the funding to see out the programme in line with the timelines set for it and should outline how this plan will continue.“It is mind boggling to think that the government has failed to provide the additional funding to SEAI to at least close out the programme in line with the timelines it gave.

“If SEAI ran out of money, this should have been communicated at the earliest opportunity but it wasn’t.  This resulted in homeowners from as far back as the beginning of the year and potentially before that committing to the scheme.  Preparatory works have been done and it is not enough for SEAI or Government to say this should not have been done.

“People just cannot put their investments on hold to wait for government to turn its back on a scheme it is continually boasting about. This is an outrage.

“Government, rather than honouring the scheme, has turned its back on these homeowners and the environment, homeowners who put their hands up and stated their willingness to make a huge once-off investment in the environment.

“It is another hugely embarrassing moment for this government, not least after the very distinct directive given by the public in the local elections this year that it cares about the environment. Clearly, on the basis of the suspension of this scheme, the government does not.”

“This is exactly the type of commitment government has been asking for in the name of the environment generally from the public but specifically through this scheme.  But the government has dispassionately ended the scheme mid-flight and reneged on these house holders,”

“This was a ‘matching funds’ scheme, with SEAI promoting that those who met the high standards set by the scheme would receive 50% of their retrofit spend back from government. 

“It’s early days yet but estimates I have from agents for SEAI, an agent itself for the government, are that easily up to €10million in grant aid was awaited. This amounts to a €20million investment – a very significant investment in the environment that government has turned its back on without warning. This matter should be discussed at the Public Accounts Committee, as it doesn’t add up how and why the Government have allowed this to happen.

“Furthermore, the retrofit investment would only have been part of the wider rebuild being carried out by homeowners so you are looking at tens of million worth of construction spend now being undermined. Not just that, many homeowners have been out of their homes renting properties pending the completion of their works, works that may not now go ahead.

“Homeowners have been waiting for months to hear about their application.  If SEAI did not have the money, this at the very least could have been communicated a lot earlier.  But even that would have been unacceptable.

“The programme continued to be promoted by SEAI on its website up until recent weeks.  Every single application submitted for the scheme ahead of this arbitrary end to it must be honoured. The government can review the scheme once the deadline has passed but it cannot indiscriminately decide that some applicants got money and others didn’t while the scheme was still running.

“I am demanding answers immediately from Minister Bruton. This falls at his door. Either he is serious about the environment and is honourable regarding government commitments or he is not.”

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