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Partnership is the way out for energy firms

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As winter closes in this year we know that too many of our residents are having to balance keeping warm with other budget pressures, including adequately feeding themselves and their families. Local government is working hard to prevent the potential consequences.

More from: LGC View: Energy

Cold homes are linked with poor health, lower educational attainment and unnecessary deaths. The starting point has to be upgrading the insulation of houses to make them warmer and cheaper to heat.

A levy on all fuel bills is charged to fund the Energy Company Obligation, through which the gas and power companies should be upgrading the homes of vulnerable people. So far their performancehas been patchy and undermined by a fundamental lack of knowledge on their part of how to identify and target the areas that need help most.

Our latest analysis shows that energy providers are 65% behind on their obligations, meaning hundreds of millions of pounds that has been collected through fuel bills has yet to be put to use. And winter is closing in.

Councils have proved to be very good at delivering upgrades to homes in large areas in a targeted and cost-effective way.

The Bristol Energy Efficiency Scheme has insulated 10,000 homes across the city, while the Kirklees Warm Zone has offered every household in the area a chance to improve its energy efficiency, insulated more than 50,000 homes and generated £80m in economic benefits.

This good work is why the LGA is calling on the energy companies to work in partnership with local authorities to deliver on their obligations. We know our areas well and can help them deliver upgrades to the people who need it most at a lower cost than the piecemeal way energy providers are doing it now.

The second way councils are helping is by encouraging direct consumer action through collective switching.

So far more than 100,000 homes have signed up to councilrun collective switching schemes, saving £10m on gas and electricity bills. This practice is still in its infancy but the potential is enormous.

While the national politicians argue over the best way to bring down energy costs, it is yet again the quiet achiever of the public sector, local government, that is delivering practical help.

Sir Merrick Cockell, chairman, LGA

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