Fighting fuel poverty – how to leverage frameworks as part of the Local Authority Delivery scheme

Guest blog by Gary Cawley, Director, North & Central England, CPC

The Government has come in for a lot of stick for the delivery of the Green Homes Grant voucher scheme for private homes. But, it’s widely acknowledged that the public sector arm of the initiative – the Local Authority Delivery scheme – has been a success since it was launched in the summer last year.

That’s surely down to the hard work, expertise and determination of social housing directors and their teams across the country, to drive down fuel poverty and to meet the net zero aim. Some will probably even beat the Government’s 2050 deadline at this rate too.

Local authorities have to be commended for their enthusiasm for the initiative – the Department for Business, Energy, and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) awarded 57 bids a total of £76million after the first phase of funding. A second round of applications has recently been completed, with expected delivery of projects before 30 September. Winning bids in the process of being announced.

What’s more, the next phase of the scheme is now live with a further £300million being made available to local authorities through Local Energy Hubs, for projects to be delivered by the end of 2021.

Targeted at low-income, low-EPC homes (D and under), the money is enabling local authorities (or consortia of local authorities) to reduce household heating bills and increase energy efficiency/reduce reliance on high-carbon heating systems.

For example, the money is being used for cavity and external wall insulation and solar PV in homes in Oldham. While residents in places such as Leicester, Staffordshire and Yorkshire can apply directly for grants for work up to a value of £10,000 (or £5,000 for landlords).

The Local Authority Delivery scheme is a very welcome and much-needed initiative. I don’t need to tell you that we must get to grips with how the country is going to tackle the retrofit elephant in the room if we’re to meet our net zero targets, and make all homes ready for the decarbonisation of the energy grid. About 75% of existing housing stock needs to be retrofitted and it won’t be cheap or easy. A recent report estimated the total cost of retrofitting social housing to be more than £100billion, with the mean cost of decarbonising a home thought to be just over £20,000.

However, what we need more than anything else is a long-term strategy and commitment from Government. We’re still not sure what’s coming down the line beyond the end of this calendar year, and it was disappointing not to hear anything about the Green Homes Grant or funding for large-scale retrofit schemes as part of Rishi Sunak’s recent budget. Longer-term Government commitments would help provide confidence to the sector, and allow it to build capacity – if done right, NHC estimates the creation of 77,000 new jobs in the North by the 2030s (click here to read the NHC report).

Local authorities and registered providers absolutely should be at the heart of any such plans for the drive towards net zero. We hope the proposed ideas for a ‘home upgrade grant’ and heat and buildings strategy will provide more certainty for the future.

Elsewhere, there are encouraging signs in terms of private funding, with products such as Sustainability Linked Loans, and interest discounts connected to ESG KPIs, starting to emerge.

Following the hardships of the pandemic, it’s also vital that we meet the needs of our disadvantaged communities and provide safe, comfortable, warm homes for people to live in. I still find it hard to comprehend why, according to the latest Government data, over 10% of households in England – 2.4million homes – are still classed as fuel poor.

To that end, we’re also looking forward to seeing the learning outputs from the Social Housing Decarbonisation Fund demonstrator project, a £50million programme to develop innovative solutions as to how retrofitting of social housing stock can be done at scale. The work will inform the delivery of the Social Housing Decarbonisation Fund, which was promised a £3.8billion investment as part of the Conservative manifesto; the first £60million is set to be made available later this year, with subsequent investments coming in “three-year waves”, depending on the next Spending Review.


Why frameworks are perfectly placed to help with delivery

 A risk facing those taking part in the Local Authority Delivery Scheme is capacity. With delivery dates so tight, is there any latent capacity available within the sector?

 On top of this, the Government’s strict application criteria for money from the Local Authority Delivery scheme may create some challenges, including:

  • A tight turnaround for programmes of work to be completed. Successful applicants for the second tranche of funding will have until 30 September to complete works, and those receiving money from Local Energy Hubs will have until the end of the calendar year.
  • Quality is of the utmost importance, and the Government has specifically said that applications which include use of TrustMark-registered contractors will score higher.
  • Installers of energy efficient measures covered by PAS 2030:2017 must be certified to install in accordance with the standard – but PAS 2035:2019 certification is preferred.
  • A huge squeeze on delivery margins, with only 15% of funding available for administrative and ancillary costs.

With these criteria in mind, it’s clear to me that frameworks are a council’s best bet when it comes to compliant procurement and delivery, and reassurance that the capacity is available to do the work at all.

Using a framework to appoint contractors for works of any size or amount can reduce time and money spent during the process, leading to quicker turnaround on projects, while ensuring the quality and track record of the suppliers you choose to engage with.

As suppliers are evaluated on both quality and price, clients can also be assured that they are getting value for money from the contractors they partner with, and will be able to select those that have the capacity to deliver in the given timeframes.


Direct Award

 Depending on their make-up, frameworks like ours may offer either Direct Award, Mini Competitions, or both, for councils seeking to appoint suppliers.

In terms of the short periods allotted under the Local Authority Delivery scheme, the Direct Award process can help clients to shave off chunks of time before project commencement, that would otherwise be spent running a competitive process, also helping to reduce overall cost.

As all suppliers listed under frameworks are pre-approved, clients are also assured of the quality of work they will receive.

This route is increasingly popular with CPC clients.


The N8 Framework

 CPC’s Energy Efficiency Measures and Associated Works (N8) framework provides suppliers of measures in line with those eligible under the Local Authority Delivery scheme, including insulation, solar PV and heat pumps, for minor to major works of any value.

It offers a Direct Award option, and is free to use for members of NHC.

The range of suppliers listed under the framework also includes TrustMark-registered companies, meaning the obligations under the Local Authority Delivery scheme agreements can be met.

Any local authorities seeking suppliers as part of the scheme can click here to download our procurement guide to find out more.

And while you’re dealing with the retrofit of your existing stock, you will still also be thinking about ways to ensure your new-build homes will be compliant to the Future Homes Standard.

Modern Methods of Construction (MMC) can help with issues such as thermal bridging and airtightness. Our NH2 Offsite Construction of New Homes Framework provides a range of solutions for whatever the development need. Click here to download the procurement guide.

Decent Homes Review – April Update

The NHC is a core participant in the Sounding Board for the Government’s review of the Decent Homes Standard. We have surveyed members on their views and are continuing to consult members through our regional networks. Here’s our latest update on the Review.

As you may be aware, the Review is in two parts – the first phase (which we’re in now) is considering the case for change to the current Decent Homes Standard (DHS). Subject to the outcome of this first part, there may then be a second phase looking at redefining decency, which would run from Autumn 2021 until Summer 2022. The Sounding Board has now met twice and reviewed two of the four criteria in the current standard.

Amending Criterion A- the statutory minimum standard

Our February update covered the first meeting of the Sounding Board, which looked at the Statutory Minimum standard.  At the April meeting of the Sounding Board, MHCLG officials updated the group on their findings around DHS Criterion (A) – the statutory minimum standard. Officials found clear support within the Sounding Board for amending Criterion A and presented two emerging options for change.

 Criterion (B) – reasonable state of repair

The second item of business at April’s meeting was to consider the case for change to the ‘reasonable state of repair’ criterion. The Sounding Board were asked a range of questions about the current list of building components used to define poor repair, and the way that the current standard considers the age of these components in combination.

The NHC made the point that the current list of components does not reflect modern or future expectations e.g. referring to gas boilers, rather than the range of heating systems we are likely to be installing in future.  We also said that we thought the list of ‘key’ components, while a sensible list for asset management purposes, made less sense to tenants given that components of importance to them, like kitchens and bathrooms, are excluded from the list of ‘key’ components. There was also discussion on the use of ‘age’ as a consideration when considering issues around decency and disrepair. While age does not equate automatically to disrepair, it is objective and measurable.

Feedback gathered in our original survey has been very useful so far.  The NHC has until mid-May to submit further written comments to MHCLG on Criterion B. If you have any further thoughts, please let us have them by Friday 7th May.

Key questions the Ministry are asking for comment on in relation to Criterion (B) are:



1. Building components


Question 1a Is the list of building components complete, or are their omissions or inconsistencies, taking account of new technologies and materials and present-day expectations on quality and decency?
Question 1b Is it useful to differentiate between ‘key’ and ‘other’ building components? Please explain your answer
Question 1c Does clustering of two or more non-serious issues rendering a home non-decent remain a useful and valid approach?

2. Aged elements


Question 2a Is it right that ‘age’ is a consideration when considering issue around decency and disrepair? Please explain your answer
Question 2b Is it valid and useful for the standard to provide and set out component life-times? If so, why?
Question 2c Taking into account advances in new technology, do you think the component lifetimes need refreshing or updating?

The Sounding Board next meets in June, when we’ll be discussing current criterion (C) – Modern facilities and services. In advance of that meeting, the NHC are particularly interested in hearing from members who have enhanced Decent Homes Standards in their own stock, particularly where these have been informed by evidence of tenant expectations.

We hope this update is useful. The NHC continue to consult members through our regional networks. Members can also register with MHCLG to receive papers and updates related to the Review. Details of how to do this can be found on the MHCLG website.

NHC contact: Brian Robson, Executive Director (Policy & Public Affairs) –

Brownfield Land Release Fund Opens

Last year, the North’s combined authorities were allocated £276m from the Brownfield Housing Fund. Building on that success, at the Budget in December 2020, the Chancellor of the Exchequer announced further funding for brownfield land release in areas not currently covered by Mayoral/Combined Authority arrangements.

The Brownfield Land Release Fund is being managed by One Public Estate (OPE), and has now opened for applications. The Fund comprises up to £75 million of capital grant, available to eligible English local authorities to support local authority brownfield land release for housing, with £25 million of this ring-fenced to support self and custom-build delivery. The deadline for applications is Wednesday 2nd June 2021.

You can find out more about the funding and contact details for further information on the Local Government Association’s website here.  The fund is aimed to release local authority-owned land by the end of March 2024, and OPE expect the funding to be attractive to sites typically accommodating up to 250 homes.

Funding can be used for abnormal costs including demolition, small-scale infrastructure, access challenges and environmental constraints.

Commenting, NHC Chief Executive Tracy Harrison said, “We know that our members often face viability challenges bringing tricky brownfield sites forward for development. The Brownfield Land Release Fund, coming after the £276m of brownfield funding for the North last year, is another very welcome development. The NHC will continue to engage with the Ministry of Housing and Local Government on these issues.”

NHC contact: Brian Robson, Executive Director (Policy and Public Affairs):


Levelling Up – Reimagining Town Centres

From our market towns to our major cities, the North is home to a diverse range of town centres with a wide variety of assets and opportunities. But changing retail habits and the impact of Covid-19 pose challenges. 

The focus is now on how we can renew and reshape town centres to ensure they continue to have a relevant offer. We know that many NHC members are considering the role housing might play in creating vibrant centres where people want to live, work, relax and shop. The regeneration of our town centres will also be a key part of achieving the government’s ambitions on levelling up – with various funding streams coming forward to support transformation and deliver a visible difference.  

At the NHC we want to facilitate a conversation on the role housing can play in this agenda, and with this in mind, we’re creating a series of member-only seminars and roundtables which will run throughout 2021, as an exclusive member benefit. Themes we’ll explore include: 

  • The role of the High Streets Task Force 
  • How the government’s commitment to ‘levelling up’ aims to help revitalise town centres 
  • Funding streams – how housing relates to the priorities of economic growth, labour market connectivity, and area renewal 
  • Business case development, with a focus on land value uplift and development viability 
  • The role of planning and design to meet local need and aspirations 
  • Links between town centre regeneration and improved health and wellbeing outcomes, to help build back fairer 
  • Ensuring residents have a voice in future plans 
  • Good practice case studies from across the North and the UK more widely 

Sessions will be suitable for our housing association, ALMO and local authority members. 

We’ll be announcing session dates over the coming weeks, and if you’d like to be notified when a new session becomes available, please email us at  

There is no charge for NHC members to join sessions in the town centres series.