Pickles admits errors over 'conservatory tax' claim

30th April, 2013

Eric Pickles provided inaccurate information to parliament to justify scrapping proposals that could have boosted take up of the green deal by 2.2 million households, his department has admitted.

The communities secretary is facing a judicial review challenge from the Association for the Conservation of Energy over his decision last December to drop changes to building regulations known as ‘consequential improvements’.

ACE’s legal case argues that Mr Pickles’ statement to parliament in December quoted inaccurate figures and drew decisions from the wrong focus groups.

It has now emerged that the Communities and Local Government department has since conceded that Mr Pickles did quote inaccurate figures in his statement to parliament.

On 7 March Baroness Hanham, the parliamentary under-secretary of state for the Communities and Local Government department, made a correction to Mr Pickles statement in the House of Lords. She said: ‘Further to my written ministerial statement of 13 December an error has been identified relating to a citation in the statement.’

Mr Pickles’ statement quoted figures from Energy Saving Trust research which he said found that ‘consequential improvements, even with green deal finance in place, would put off 38 per cent of households from going ahead with building work on their property that they were otherwise planning’.

The corrected version clarified that the 38 per cent figure actually related to ‘small and medium businesses’ rather than households and that 34 per cent of households would be put off carrying out building work by consequential improvements.

A spokesperson for the CLG, pointed out that the change was a small one and did not ‘tangibly alter the substantive point’.

The spokesperson said: ‘We are robustly contesting this legal challenge. We believe that consequential improvements would discourage many homeowners from improving their home and, after careful consideration, we will not be imposing new regulations in this regard.’

Andrew Warren, managing director of ACE, said: ‘Mr Pickles has had to acknowledge that the reports don’t say what he said they meant.’

He added that CLG has filed its defence to ACE’s legal challenge and there is no mention of the fact that 82 per cent of respondents to the consultation on the proposals supported their introduction.

The CLG impact assessment of the consequential improvement proposals showed the policy was expected to drive take up of the green deal by 2.2 million households, provide £11 billion of economic benefits and slash carbon emissions by 130 million tonnes.

However, following a backlash in the media which dubbed the proposed changes a ‘conservatory tax’ they were downplayed by Downing Street officials and then eventually dropped by CLG.

This article first appeared in Inside Housing on 11th April

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