The last few weeks have seen a new era for the Conservative Party and the leadership of the UK with Theresa May being appointed as Prime Minister and within a few days, a new cabinet was formed with only a few ministers remaining in position from David Cameron’s government.The key departmental change is the merger of The Department for Energy and Climate Change (DECC) and the remaining functions of the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) to form a new Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS).
The Government has outlined that this new Department will bring together responsibility for business, industrial strategy, and science and innovation with energy and climate change policy.
Nigel Rees, GGF Chief Executive commented;
“These changes are welcome because it means we can start fresh dialogue and create relationships with new departments, ministers and government officials. Without going into too much detail, it was obvious the Government’s energy efficiency initiatives over the last five years were not working.
Only recently, the Government released the cost of £240m for Green Deal and ECO, two schemes that failed both the construction industry and consumers. We hope the new cabinet and departments will listen to industry’s solutions and develop a progressive long term plan that benefits all.”
The GGF anticipates no immediate impact on its strategies and campaigns as a result of the government changes, however following consultancy with GK Strategy (the GGF’s political advisory firm) the Federation believe there will be more reward in focusing its efforts on engagement with senior civil servants over the next six months.
Nigel Rees explained, “At this stage, our short to medium term strategy will be to try to change or influence existing and imminent policies relating to energy efficiency rather than try and engage in the overall agenda of the departments.
This is for three primary reasons, firstly the new cabinet will need time to establish itself, secondly the senior civil servants we are looking to engage with have, on the whole remained and thirdly, the existing policies may be easier to influence following the government’s own admission of the failures of Green Deal and ECO.”
Next month will see the release of the Bonfield Report – the government commissioned independent investigation into energy efficiency in the UK. The Report will cover areas such as consumer advice, protection, standards and enforcement for UK home energy efficiency and renewable energy measures.
It aims to highlight both the failings and the positives of previous energy efficiency schemes and provide recommendations for the next steps for the UK’s long term energy efficiency policy.
The GGF has participated in the Bonfield Review for the last six months and in conjunction with GK Strategy will analyse the Report when it is published and prepare a response in due course.
On the Bonfield Review, Brian Smith, GGF Director of Home Improvement commented, “We are looking forward to seeing the findings of the Bonfield Review and we will offer Government our help to create solutions that will benefit our industry, consumers and the Government’s long term energy efficiency policies and objectives.
With the Bonfield remit being based around protecting consumers and ensuring professional practice, we will emphasize to government that our industry is in relatively good health. The GGF already has in place proven protection and conciliation schemes that are free for consumers. In addition, all GGF Members adhere to our Consumer Code of Practice which was approved by Trading Standards Institute earlier this year.
Our industry also has strong competent person schemes, none more so than FENSA which in recent years has worked with government to introduce Minimal Technical Competency to over 6000 companies with GGF Training ensuring thousands of installers are legally qualified to install windows in the domestic sector.”
The GGF will also seek clarification from BEIS to confirm its level of commitment to “climate change” – a phrase that has been dropped from the new department’s title following the merger and also an area the government has already cited as a “challenging”.
With many fearing that climate change may be moved off the government’s agenda, Nigel Rees commented, “For the long term future, it’s important the Government recognizes the important role that energy efficiency has in achieving a reduction in carbon emissions and subsequent climate change. We will be hoping to see a solid commitment with viable policies and long term energy efficiency initiatives for the benefit of homeowners, businesses and the environment.”
Other relevant changes to the glass and glazing industry include; the newly created Department for Exiting the European Union - responsible for overseeing preparations and negotiations for the withdrawal of the UK from the EU and the new Department for International Trade has also which has overall responsibility for promoting British trade across the world.
Nigel Rees summarised, “With the recent government changes, the imminent Bonfield Report, Brexit and the party conferences this autumn we are set for interesting and busy times ahead. We will be getting involved at every opportunity and will ensure we keep our Members up to speed with developments on all fronts.”