At a time when many workers in the North East are facing deep economic uncertainty, the government needs to be doing all it can to create jobs across the region.
Yet the withdrawal of funding from the Green Homes Grant scheme leaves the government’s target of 100,000 new jobs in tatters, and raises questions about their priorities for recovery.
The North East is in need of good green jobs and is home to politically contested ‘red-wall’ constituencies, which have been identified by the government as areas to ‘level up’.
The Green Homes Grant, which provides funding for retrofitting homes to make them more environmentally-friendly, was announced by the chancellor in his ‘Plan for Jobs’ speech in July 2020.
This was the government’s flagship policy to 'build back better' and create green jobs in the face of rising unemployment. The grants were since promoted by the prime minister as a key plank in his Ten Point Plan for a green recovery.
Recently however, the government has quietly cut more than £1 billion of funding from the Green Homes Grant. And the chancellor’s recent Budget did nothing to plug the huge gap this left.
There was just £99 million in new direct green funding allocated to England in the Budget, which is just 7.4% of the £1.35 billion that the government previously cut.
The Budget was a missed opportunity to reverse the Green Homes Grant decision, fully fund the scheme and invest in a powerful green stimulus to create millions more decent jobs.
I have always made the case for green jobs in the region and the TUC has set out plans to create 1.24 million good green jobs within the next two years, including 30,200 jobs in the North East.
These jobs include retrofitting homes to make them more energy-efficient, as well as installing faster broadband, developing modern transport links and bringing forward new green technology.
In the retrofitting proposal, 212,000 new jobs would be created and earmarked to struggling local authorities for delivery.
Sadly, I believe this funding cut has taken a wrecking ball to green jobs in the North East.
The Green Homes Grant was supposed to create jobs, not cost them. By pulling the funding, the government has shown it is not serious about levelling up.
We need to see a proper green jobs drive to help power our recovery and stop mass unemployment across the region.
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