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There’s a massive shortage of people skilled in retrofitting, with a shortfall of up to 200,000 tradespeople. With people having to wait up a year for solar panels and the like to be installed, it’s a credible claim and the Federation of Master Builders have noted that “60 per cent of jobs are stalled due to labour shortages”. We know several industries are short of skilled labour following Brexit, with Government slow of the mark to support training and the apprentice system. It’s far from an easy or quick problem to solve.

Government could support a massive skills training program which would create a large pool of people with sufficient skills to carry out the many retrofit elements. But the challenge is that the retrofit skills gap is only half of the puzzle. Inappropriate retrofit can create as many, if not more, problems than they solve. There are examples around the country of badly done retrofit schemes which have created water penetration, mould and damp causing residents misery, illness and sometimes death. These disasters are typical of nationally-funded Government contracts which are won by large companies which then subcontract out the work and rush the work through in order to meet their contractual targets. In doing so, any sense of accountability and oversight of the work is lost. Top-down schemes have demonstrably delivered a one-size fits all approach, storing up all sort of problems for residents. Training people to carry out retrofit is one thing, providing the technical expertise to ensure that the retrofit measures which are carried out are right for the property is quite another.

You would expect the Co-operative Party, the Party which represents the co-operative movement, to say the following – but it happens to be true. Locally based retrofit co-ops backed by the appropriate advice and training is the answer to avoiding retrofit disaster. Local co-operatives are far more likely to be accountable and trusted by communities. They are far more likely to be sympathetic and over time familiar with the nuances of building construction in their area. They are far less likely to want to rush the work through.

Designing a nationally supported retrofit scheme which is delivered by trusted, skilled, and technically advised co-operatives locally is not an easy task. It requires the Treasury to be prepared to invest in what is an urgent national agenda not just to deliver on our net zero targets but to save people money on energy bills whilst simultaneously being patient and not demanding the kind of instant fulfilment and (at least on the face of it) outcomes that you get from many top-down nationally backed schemes. What is needed is the opposite of a one-sized fits all approach, but one which is rolled out across the country and delivered by people who have the right training and the right advice.  It’s quite a nuanced position to hold, but one with a bit of will could be achieved.