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Friday, September 24, 2010

Fuel poverty and the palace

If this story in today's Independent is correct it is astonishing. They say that the Queen's deputy treasurer wrote to the Department for Culture, Media and Sport to ask whether the Royal Household would be eligible for a grant to replace four combined heat and power units at Buckingham Palace and Windsor Castle:

He asked: "Community Energy can fund up to 40 per cent of the capital costs of implementing a community heating scheme... Since we are already grant-in-aid funded [the Queen receives £15m a year for the upkeep of her palaces] we would like to know whether the Household [would] be able to benefit from these grants. I look forward to your comments."

The paper continues:

Under this scheme administered by the Environment department, schools, hospitals, councils and housing associations have been awarded £60m for heating programmes which benefit people on low incomes.

Taxpayers already contribute £38m to pay for the Royal Family. Yet some of the buildings which would have benefited from the energy grant were occupied by minor royals living in grace and favour accommodation on the royal estates. Surprisingly the Government offered no resistance to the proposed application and cleared the way for the Queen to take advantage of the handout.

But by August 2004 the documents show that Whitehall officials had changed their minds and poured cold water on the whole idea. In an email sent to the Palace it was diplomatically explained that the funds were aimed at people on "low incomes".

The official wrote: "I think this is where the Community Energy Funding is directed and ties in with most allocations going to community heating schemes run by local authorities, housing associations, universities etc. I also feel a bit uneasy about the probable adverse press coverage if the Palace were given a grant at the expense of say a hospital. Sorry this doesn't sound more positive."

I cannot even give any credit to Palace officials for trying this on. After all the Royal household receives a substantial chunk of money from the taxpayer and the Queen is not short of a bob or two. Surely they had the commonsense to realise the bad publicity this would bring.

More importantly, why did they not think of those who these schemes were designed to benefit and why did the Government allow it to go on so long before they put their foot down?
What's more shocking Peter is the Welsh Assembly Scheme for heating and insulation in Wales to elivate fuel poverty; I have yet to meet anyone who has benefited from this scheme!

My dear old mum waited three years to have a Combi Boiler installed or should I say not-installed, she moved in with us before it was installed.

The other joke is the loft insulation scheme, if you've already got loft insulation (like most houses have, you don't qualify). The insulation installers will then insulate your loft for a charge, but I went along to Wickes and got the insulation for around ¼ of the price.
Honestly, I don't think the Queen was involved - so criticising the Queen is a bit off, imho. It is like saying a CEO of BP is acutely aware of the installation of some lighting in a staff canteen at BP HQ. I don't suppose the Queen even knows what a heat pump is, and I suspect Peter that you don't know either. It's an engineering thing - and I suspect 95% of the UK population doesn't have a clue what a heat pump is, how it functions, the issues surrounding the use of such kit, etc.
What makes me laugh is that there is a scheme to help people on a low income to get heating etc.,,,but how do the people then have the resources to pay for the bills...I speak to many people old and young who are going without heating because they are to fearful that they cannot afford to pay the bills.....
If you re-read the post you will see that I have not criticised the Queen, just her officials.
"... and the Queen is not short of a bob or two..."

In your comment Peter; at least by innuendo you criticised the Queen - you did take a certain oath when you became an AM - didn't you? It would be better if you withdrew this part of your comment.
My oath does not involve a lobotomy nor the suppression of my right to criticise where it is due. Clearly, my criticism in this post is directed at the royal household officials but the Queen is their employer and ultimately responsible for their actions.
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