Nails in Labour's coffin

Ruth Kelly has revealed another backroom farce surrounding the introduction of Home Information Pack

As the government tries again to drag us back into the bad old days of nuclear power, this isn’t the only nail in the coffin of Labour’s environmental credentials.

There have been several recently, with almost every department lining up to demonstrate its incompetence at organising and running effective green policies. The ongoing debacle of the DTI’s chronically under-funded, currently suspended, and what seems like deliberately badly planned, Low Carbon Buildings Programme (which is supposed to help householders generate their own green electricity) is now a classic example of this tendency.

On Tuesday, Communities and Local Government Secretary Ruth Kelly revealed another backroom farce surrounding the introduction of Home Information Packs. These have been delayed now from June until August – and will only then apply to houses with four or more bedrooms.

The scheme has been managed in the worst way possible. Revealing the waste of a golden opportunity to create a new, skilled, green workforce, Kelly confessed that less than a quarter of the necessary inspectors had been trained to complete energy surveys for the packs. Those that have qualified were gearing up to start work in a few days time but now face unemployment until August, and even then an uncertain workload as no new timetable has been set for expanding the scope of HIPs.

There is no excuse for this kind of mismanagement. The HIP isn’t something the government thought up last year and decided to rush through. The energy component of the packs is an essential part of compliance with the EU’s Energy Performance of Buildings Directive, and they have had plenty of notice of this. With no firm plans for compliance now in existence, it looks like this will be another environmental Directive to add to the list of those the UK has failed to implement properly, including those on waste and air quality, among others.

When Labour came into power ten years ago, they promised to ‘make every department a green department’. Instead we have seen green policies jettisoned, left on the shelf or just plain undermined by almost every minister who gets the chance. Part of the reason that so-called Environment Secretary David Miliband is so ineffective must be that he and his ministry have little influence on – or even knowledge of – the chaos being wreaked by other departments in areas that should be within his remit.

As we watch our carbon emissions rising every year, the DTI demolishing our hopes for a green energy future, and the CLG department ditching policies to reduce the footprint of our homes, Defra seems largely confined to funding ‘communications initiatives’ around climate change and encouraging councils to spy on our wheelie bins. I suspect that only when we get an Environment department with real teeth – or better still, real Greens in government – will we see any improvement.

Sian Berry lives in Kentish Town and was previously a principal speaker and campaigns co-ordinator for the Green Party. She was also their London mayoral candidate in 2008. She works as a writer and is a founder of the Alliance Against Urban 4x4s
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Lord Sainsbury pulls funding from Progress and other political causes

The longstanding Labour donor will no longer fund party political causes. 

Centrist Labour MPs face a funding gap for their ideas after the longstanding Labour donor Lord Sainsbury announced he will stop financing party political causes.

Sainsbury, who served as a New Labour minister and also donated to the Liberal Democrats, is instead concentrating on charitable causes. 

Lord Sainsbury funded the centrist organisation Progress, dubbed the “original Blairite pressure group”, which was founded in mid Nineties and provided the intellectual underpinnings of New Labour.

The former supermarket boss is understood to still fund Policy Network, an international thinktank headed by New Labour veteran Peter Mandelson.

He has also funded the Remain campaign group Britain Stronger in Europe. The latter reinvented itself as Open Britain after the Leave vote, and has campaigned for a softer Brexit. Its supporters include former Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg and Labour's Chuka Umunna, and it now relies on grassroots funding.

Sainsbury said he wished to “hand the baton on to a new generation of donors” who supported progressive politics. 

Progress director Richard Angell said: “Progress is extremely grateful to Lord Sainsbury for the funding he has provided for over two decades. We always knew it would not last forever.”

The organisation has raised a third of its funding target from other donors, but is now appealing for financial support from Labour supporters. Its aims include “stopping a hard-left take over” of the Labour party and “renewing the ideas of the centre-left”. 

Julia Rampen is the digital news editor of the New Statesman (previously editor of The Staggers, The New Statesman's online rolling politics blog). She has also been deputy editor at Mirror Money Online and has worked as a financial journalist for several trade magazines. 

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