Ed Davey: A strategy to end cold homes for good

Future governments will now, for the first time, be required by law to tackle fuel poverty by making the coldest, leakiest homes in England more energy efficient.

This new Fuel poverty strategy – the first for over a decade – outlines challenges and actions for the next 15 years to ensure future Governments take the right steps to tackle fuel poverty and get help to those who need it most.

A new legally binding target – in force since December 2014 – is at the heart of the new strategy. It requires a minimum standard of energy efficiency (Band C) for as many fuel poor homes as reasonably practicable by 2030.

Early measures to tackle the problem of fuel poverty and hit the new target include:

  • New regulations so from April 2018 private landlords cannot rent out energy inefficient properties (homes with Energy Performance ratings below ‘E’)
  • Tackling the problem of fuel poverty in off gas grid properties with a new £25 million fund to help people install central heating systems for the first time
  • Extending the successful ECO scheme to 2017, so that a further 500,000 properties will be made cheaper and easier to heat, building on the one million homes that ECO and the Green Deal have helped in the last 2 years

The strategy prepares the ground for future new measures with a series of pilots focused on priority areas, ranging from health aspects of fuel poverty through to specific housing types like off gas grid properties and park homes.

A £3 million pot for such pilots will see £1 million released immediately to scale up local ‘warmth-on-prescription’ projects to help primary healthcare professionals such as GPs play a much larger part in tackling fuel poverty. In the coming months up to £2 million more will be released to support innovation pilots, not just in health but also for off gas grid, park homes and community energy approaches.

Unveiling the strategy, Energy and Climate Change Secretary Ed Davey said:

“Today marks a crucial step towards a future free from cold homes and bloated energy bills in England. We now have a legally binding commitment to plug our draughtiest houses – adding to the 1 million homes we’ve made warmer and cheaper to heat.

“From tackling fuel poverty in the private rented sector to facing up properly to the challenges of rural off gas grid fuel poverty, this strategy marks a significant change from the old approach.

“Yet even as we implement new regulations and new spending priorities to make homes warmer, we are planning for the next phase of cutting fuel poverty, with a series of key pilots, especially into the link between improving health and cutting fuel poverty.”

Households in fuel poverty in the least energy efficient homes (Bands F and G) typically face energy costs that are £1,000 more than those in higher quality homes. To help focus support where it is needed most, the strategy introduces interim milestones to get as many as fuel poor homes as reasonably practicable up to a minimum energy efficiency rating of Band E by 2020 and Band D by 2025.

Minister for Energy and Climate Change Amber Rudd:

“We want the fall in levels of fuel poverty seen under this Government to continue – so that cold homes are gone for good.

“That’s the future we’re presenting, alongside our ambitious targets, so even more households can join the 1 million homes already reaping the benefits of lower energy bills and warmer homes this winter.”

Last month, the government laid draft regulations to introduce minimum energy efficiency standards that will see up to 1 million people renting from private landlords benefit from warmer and cheaper to heat homes. Many of the poorest tenants will benefit and, with government support, landlords can improve their properties at no upfront cost – and landlords will only have to make improvements that are cost-effective. This will be backed by a new law to give tenants the right from April 2016 to request consent for improvements that the landlord cannot unreasonably refuse.

Nearly 2 million heating and energy efficiency measures have already been installed across the country. With ECO being extended to 2017 an extra half a million people will be able to keep warm for less, including many low-income, vulnerable households. This is on top of half a billion pounds of investment in energy efficiency schemes over three years, including the Green Deal Home Improvement Fund.

Dr Tim Ballard, Vice-Chair of the Royal College of General Practitioners, said:

“The Royal College of GPs welcomes this new fuel poverty strategy. It marks an important turning point in acting on what we have known for some time: that cold homes contribute to the most vulnerable people being unhealthy and can even be lethal for them.

“The new strategy provides a long-term framework in which the health sector has a vital role to play, in partnership with Government. The new funding for health-related pilot projects is especially needed and will help build the case for more investment to cut the cost of warmth and help reduce the burden of cold homes on the health service.”

Sign up for free warning of possible suspicious activity on property from Land Registry

The award-winning service provides an early warning of possible suspicious activity on someone’s property.

Tracey Salvin, Property Alert Service Manager said:

“The aim of Property Alert is to help people protect their home from fraudsters. There are many people who have no idea that someone could ‘steal’ their home from under them, but unfortunately it can and does happen. For example, someone may pretend to be you using forged documents and sell or mortgage your home. While this is not common, when it does happen it can have devastating consequences for the victim. Imagine finding out that someone else has sold or mortgaged your property without your knowledge and disappeared with the money, leaving you to pick up the pieces. That is why we’ve introduced a number of anti-fraud measures at Land Registry including Property Alert.”

Example where Property Alert helped to detect fraudulent activity

Ms Anderson (names have been changed) signed up for Land Registry’s Property Alert service and placed an alert on her property. She received an email alert the very next day saying that an application to transfer her property had been made. Ms Anderson knew nothing about this and contacted Land Registry’s property fraud reporting line.

On investigation, we found that the application had been made by Ms Anderson’s father and contained evidence claiming to show that Ms Anderson’s identity had been checked by a solicitor. Ms Anderson claimed she had never been to see this solicitor and denied signing any transfer of her property. She also alleged that her father was intercepting her mail and at one time had taken her passport.

When we contacted the solicitor concerned, he confirmed he had met someone claiming to be Ms Anderson but who, it turned out, must have been an imposter.

As a result of Ms Anderson contacting Land Registry, we formally notified Ms Anderson’s father of her objection to his application. As we didn’t receive any response from him, we cancelled his application. This allowed Ms Anderson to proceed with selling her property as she had planned to do.

What is property fraud?

Property fraud can happen in many ways. For example, fraudsters may steal someone’s identity and attempt to gain ownership of a property by using forged documents. The fraudsters may then raise money by mortgaging the property without the owner’s knowledge before disappearing with the money, leaving the owner to deal with the consequences.

Land Registry has stopped fraud on properties worth more than £70 million since 2009.

How Property Alert works

  1. You will need to set up an online account with Land Registry which is free
  2. You’ll be able to monitor up to ten registered properties in England and Wales. Email alerts will be sent when there is certain activity on the property – you can then judge whether or not the activity is suspicious and if you should seek further advice
  3. People who are not online can also sign up for Property Alert by calling 0300 006 0478

Most at risk

Properties most likely to be at risk from property fraud are:

  • tenanted properties – for example where the landlord lives elsewhere, a tenant might try to mortgage or sell the property without the landlord’s knowledge
  • empty properties – such as where the owner lives abroad or is in a care home
  • where there are family disputes. For example, in a relationship break-down someone could try and mortgage a property without their partner knowing
  • properties without a mortgage

Other measures

To help protect yourself against property fraud, make sure:

  • your property is registered. If you become an innocent victim of fraud and suffer financial loss as a consequence, you may be compensated
  • once registered, ensure Land Registry has up-to-date contact details so we can reach you easily. You can have up to three addresses in the register including an email address and/or an address abroad
  • owners can make a request to have a restriction entered on their property. This is designed to help prevent forgery by requiring a solicitor or conveyancer to certify they are satisfied that the person selling or mortgaging the property is the true owner

More property fraud advice is available and you can watch our video.

David Ward MP questions behaviour at weekly Parliamentary “Punch and Judy” Show

At Prime Minister’s Question Time, Bradford MP David Ward, questioned the Prime Minster about politicians behaviour at PMQs and whether this was damaging people’s perception of Parliament.

David Ward MP was selected out of the weekly ballot to pose a question to the Prime Minister, at the weekly Prime Minister Question Time (PMQs).

David met with students from Bradford College on Tuesday 3rd March who told David that they were less than impressed by the conduct of David Cameron and Ed Miliband shouting at each other in a room filled with adults behaving in a manner that would not be tolerated in any classroom or work environment.

David asked the Prime Minister:

“Does the Prime Minister believe his own behaviour, and that of the Leader of the Opposition within Prime Ministers Questions, either enhances or damages the image of the Houses of Parliament and indeed Politicians in the eyes of members of the public”

Responding to David, the Prime Minister, Rt Hon David Cameron said:

“What I would say to the honourable gentleman is that it is inevitably a robust exchange there are always ways I’m sure which we can improve Prime Ministers Questions but I would say it does have an important function which is it does make sure that we have accountable Government in our country where people can ask the Prime Minister anything they want.

Commenting, David Ward MP said:

“Most people in the real world, outside of the Westminster bubble, think that Prime Minister’s Questions is pathetic and is the manifestation of all the things which are wrong with politics at the moment.

“People in Bradford see politicians evading simple and often important questions, being loud, boisterous and frankly just looking like a bunch of out of control public school children. No wonder people get apathetic about voting when they see how this lot carry on in the weekly “Punch and Judy” show.

“The behaviour of most politicians at Prime Minister’s Questions is inexcusable and we need the system to change if real scrutiny of the Prime Minister and his Government is to take place and bring back some form of integrity to the weekly questioning of the Prime Minister.”

The time for action on drugs reform is now

Nick Clegg has today confirmed the Liberal Democrat manifesto will contain the most far-reaching drug reform policies ever put forward by a major political party ahead of an election.

He made the announcement at an event at Chatham House alongside entrepreneur Richard Branson, a member of the Global Commission on Drug Policy.

Speaking at the event, Nick said:

“Drugs reform, like prison reform, is one of those issues that political parties always talk big about in opposition, only to fall silent and do nothing in Government. Not the Liberal Democrats.

“As part of the Coalition Government, we’ve continued to fight for change. We believe the time for action on drugs reform is now.

“I’m incredibly frustrated that, after five years in Coalition, we cannot take our work to its logical conclusion – just because the Tories are scared of being branded soft on drugs.

“It’s time for the Conservatives and Labour to realise that the world has moved on, reform is no longer a taboo subject and voters expect politicians to deliver results based on solid evidence, not overblown rhetoric.”

The plans include:

  • Adopting the approach used in Portugal, where those arrested for possession of drugs for personal use are diverted into treatment, education or civil penalties that do not attract a criminal record.
  • Legislating to end the use of imprisonment for possession of drugs for personal use, diverting resources towards tackling organised drug crime instead, as a first step towards reforming the system.
  • Continuing to apply severe penalties to those who manufacture, import or deal in illegal drugs, and clamp down on those who produce and sell unregulated chemical highs.
  • Establishing a review to assess the effectiveness of the cannabis legalisation experiments in the United States and Uruguay, in relation to public health and criminal activity.
  • Legislating to make the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs independent in setting the classification of drugs, while remaining accountable to Parliament and the wider public.
  • Enabling doctors to prescribe cannabis for medicinal use.
  • Putting the Department of Health rather than the Home Office in charge of drug policy.

Nick added:

“The first step is to recognise that drug use is primarily a health issue. That’s why, in our manifesto, the Liberal Democrats will commit to move the responsibility for drug policy from the Home Office to the Department of Health. Tackling supply is a matter for the police so that will stay with the Home Office. But reducing demand and minimising harm are questions of public health.

“Secondly, we will re-focus resources away from prosecuting people whose only crime is that they have used drugs, or are addicted to drugs. The international evidence very clearly shows that handing out criminal records to users does nothing to reduce overall levels of drugs use.

“We know that around one third of British adults have taken illegal drugs in their lifetime, with approximately one in five 16-24 year olds taking drugs in the last year alone. For many, it’s something you try when you’re young then grow out of.

“But, in this country, if you’re a young person – say out at a club with friends – and you get arrested for possession of a small amount of drugs, it’s likely you’ll end up with a criminal record. That means this stupid youthful mistake could damage your whole future – possibly stopping you from getting the job you want, whether it’s as a doctor, nurse, teacher or even taxi-driver.

“What would you do? If this was your child and you found those drugs would you go to a doctor or police officer to help them? I think nearly all of us would call the health expert. And, in the same way, I just don’t think it’s right for us as a society to write off these young people who haven’t hurt anyone else, just made the wrong choice, so early. We need to put an end to this ludicrous situation. Our focus should be on getting them the help they need, not punishment, so they can go on to realise their ambitions and make a positive contribution to society.

“That’s why the Lib-Dems believe these resources should instead be ploughed into smarter enforcement and greater availability of treatment.

“So we will develop diversionary programmes to take users out of the criminal justice system altogether, ensure that those who need treatment get it, and find more effective ways to reduce or end their drug use.

“I want a see a system where anyone who is arrested for possession of drugs for their own personal use gets either treatment (if they need it), education, or a civil fine.”

Liberal Democrats launch Zero Waste Bill to safeguard the environment

Liberal Democrats launch Zero Waste Bill to safeguard the environment

Liberal Democrats have announced plans to tackle industrial fly tipping and protect the environment for future generations.

As part of our plans to introduce Five Green Laws in the next Parliament, Liberal Democrats have unveiled proposals for a Zero Waste Bill.

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The Bill is intended to boost the number of organisations prosecuted for illegal dumping while also introducing a higher, more consistent level of fines for fly-tippers who damage Britain’s environment.

As well as causing severe damage to Britain’s environment and wildlife, illegal waste sites, fly-tipping and landfill tax evasion costs the UK taxpayer on average £500m a year in lost revenue.

Under the proposal, organisations caught fly-tipping on an industrial scale to deliberately evade tax could face up to £9m in fines.

Currently only a small number of prosecutions are successful, ranging between 171—197 a year. The value of fines imposed varies considerably between courts, but averages only £7,000. This is despite the large-scale dumping operations conducted by some companies.

The Liberal Democrats plan is to create a ‘carrot and stick’ approach to UK waste, one which combines a Stern Review style action plan that turns waste into an economic asset but comes down hard on industrial fly tippers through larger penalties and fines.

Liberal Democrat Leader and Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg said:

“Commercial fly-tipping and illegal dumping of waste not only harms British wildlife and the environment, but also means the taxpayer loses out.

“Our Zero Waste Bill not only ensures a fairer society by giving companies who use illegal dumping to shirk their tax responsibilities their comeuppance; but also creates a stronger economy, turning waste on its head to make it a beneficial resource for the country”

Liberal Democrat Environment Minister Dan Rogerson added:

“Environmentalism has been at the core of our party’s DNA long before it fell in and out of fashion with other parties.

“This is why we have such a strong environmental record in government, from planting a million trees and protecting our national forests to introducing a 5p charge on throwaway plastic bags.

“Our five green laws take this even further. We will make Britain’s waste pay – trebling fines for industrial scale fly-tipping, and establishing a ‘Stern Report’ to end the practice of needlessly sending waste to landfill.”

Nick Clegg and Richard Branson: The global war on drugs has been an abject failure

Writing in the Guardian, Liberal Democrat Leader Nick Clegg and Richard Branson describe the war on drugs an “abject failure.”

Nick and Richard write that it is time for fresh thinking and ask politicians to embrace the call for reform.

You can read the article in full below.

By any standard, the global war on drugs has been an abject failure.

Since the ‘war’ was declared by President Nixon in 1971, we have spent over a trillion US dollars trying to eradicate drugs from our societies. Yet the criminal market continues to grow, driving unimaginable levels of profit for organised crime.

We devote vast police, criminal justice and military resources to the problem, including the incarceration of people on a historically unprecedented scale.

In many parts of the world, drug violence has become endemic. On the day that Mexican president Nieto is visiting the UK, we should remember the estimated 100,000 people killed in Mexico alone since 2006.

Yet tragically, the sum total of enforcement efforts against drug supply over the past 40 years has been zero. Efforts at reducing demand have been similarly fruitless.

Here in the UK, one third of adults have taken illegal drugs and the gangs are doing a roaring trade. The problem simply isn’t going away.

It’s no wonder that countries around the world are rethinking their approach. Former prime ministers and presidents are now admitting the mistakes of the past and pushing for change, through the Global Commission on Drug Policy and other bodies.

Serving politicians are increasingly speaking out, with President Santos of Colombia leading the way. Senior law enforcement officers are starting to question the idea that we can arrest ourselves out of this.

Perhaps the most startling change has been in the United States, the country that invented the drugs war, where four states have recently voted to tax and regulate cannabis sales.

Closer to home, Portugal, the Netherlands, Spain, Switzerland, the Czech Republic and Denmark have all introduced reforms aimed at reducing harm and cutting crime, ranging from heroin prescribing to decriminalisation.

The West is undergoing a tectonic shift; but the UK seems oblivious to it.

And yet we desperately need better solutions in this country. One in six children of school age are still taking drugs; 2,000 people die each year in drug-related incidents; the use of unregulated ‘legal highs’ is rampant.

At the same time the police are stopping and searching half a million people a year for possession of drugs, prosecutions of users are close to record levels, and prison cells are still used for people whose only crime is the possession of a substance to which they are addicted.

This costs a lot of money – money which could be better spent on treatment and on redoubling our efforts to disrupt supply. And it wrecks the lives of 70,000 people a year who receive a criminal record for possession and then find themselves unable to get a job.

As an investment, the war on drugs has failed to deliver any returns. If it were a business, it would have been shut down a long time ago.  This is not what success looks like.

The idea of eradicating drugs from the world by waging a war on those who use them is fundamentally flawed for one simple reason: it doesn’t reduce drug taking.

The Home Office’s own research, commissioned by Liberal Democrats in government and published a few months ago, found that “there is no apparent correlation between the ‘toughness’ of a country’s approach and the prevalence of adult drug use”.

This devastating conclusion means that we are wasting our scarce resources, and on a grand scale.

The standard political response to this is to say that we must stay the course – that if we arrest a few more people, seize a few more shipments, then ‘victory’ remains in our grasp.

And conversely, that if we dare to do anything differently then we are playing Russian roulette with people’s lives. The gulf between the rhetoric and the reality could not be greater.

The status quo is a colossal con perpetrated on the public by politicians who are too scared to break the taboo.

So what is the alternative? For this, we should look to Portugal which removed criminal penalties for drug possession in 2001. Portugal’s reforms have not – as many predicted – led to an increase in drug use.

Instead, they have allowed resources to be re-directed towards the treatment system, with dramatic reductions in addiction, HIV infections and drug-related deaths.

Drugs remain illegal and socially unacceptable, as they should be, but drug users are dealt with through the civil rather than the criminal law.

Anyone who is arrested for drug possession is immediately assessed and sent for treatment or education. If they fail to engage, they have to pay a fine.

The Portuguese system works, and on an issue as important as this, where lives are at stake, governments cannot afford to ignore the evidence.

We should set up pilots to test and develop a British version of the Portuguese model. The evidence suggests it will be cheaper, more effective at reducing harm, and would allow the police to focus their attention where it should be, on the criminal gangs that supply the drugs.

Now is the time for politicians of all parties to count the costs of four decades of failure, and embrace the call for reform. If we really want effective solutions to drug markets and to the harm caused by drug use, it will take political courage and fresh thinking.

Nick Clegg MP and Richard Branson

N E Lincs smokers urged to take first steps towards giving up on No Smoking Day

Smokers in North East Lincolnshire are being urged to take the first step in giving up cigarettes for good on No Smoking Day which takes place on Wednesday 11 March

While studies show that two-thirds of smokers want to quit (1), nearly one in five UK adults continue to smoke, including 25 per cent in North East Lincolnshire (2).

This year’s No Smoking Day theme is ‘Proud to be a Quitter’. In life we’re told never to give up, to keep going – but when it comes to smoking, being a ‘Quitter’ is a good thing.

Advisors from the stop smoking service will be at Asda store Grimsby on 9 and 10 March 2015 to help smokers make this the day they start to stop.

Dr Mike Knapton, Associate Medical Director at the BHF, said:

“Giving up smoking is the single best thing you can do for your health, and that’s why the British Heart Foundation runs No Smoking Day. We’re encouraging smokers to mark Wednesday 11 March in their calendars and take the first step towards a smoke-free life.”

The local Stop Smoking Service provides free and friendly support for smokers throughout North East Lincolnshire. For more information on quitting smoking telephone the Stop Smoking service on 01472 325500 or visit their website www.freedomfromsmoke.co.uk

Alternatively, your GP practice or Pharmacy may have a Stop Smoking Advisor operating from the premises. Ask for further information from them.

References

1. Statistics from ASH fact sheet. Facts at a glance – smoking statistics. April 2014. http://www.ash.org.uk/files/documents/ASH_93.pdf

2. Estimated local smoking prevalence based on ONS Integrated Household Survey 2013 data

£70 million for home energy efficiency through Green Deal Home Improvement Fund

More people will enjoy a warmer home for less thanks to the third release from the Green Deal Home Improvement Fund (GDHIF) worth up to £70 million.

From midday, Monday 16 March, the popular scheme will open to new applications for the new release of funding, with up to £5,600 available to households in England and Wales to help with the cost of installing certain energy saving measures such as solid wall insulation, double glazing, boilers, cavity wall and floor insulation.

Energy and Climate Change Secretary Ed Davey said:

We’re helping families keep warmer for less – driving bills down by encouraging more competition between energy suppliers and making over one million homes more energy efficient.

Households up and down the country are reaping the benefits of a warmer home thanks to the Green Deal Home Improvement Fund. And now, with more money available, thousands more can benefit.

More than 25,000 households have already received a voucher for The Green Deal Home Improvement Fund since it launched in June 2014. For the third release of funding, money has been increased for the two measures offer. Domestic energy customers will be able to receive:

  • up to £3750 for installing solid wall insulation;
  • and/or up to £1250 for installing two measures from an approved list;
  • up to £100 refunded for their Green Deal Assessment;
  • up to £500 more if applying within 12 months of buying a new home.

The £70 million for the third release will be available for applications for solid wall insulation and/or the two measures offer until all the funding is allocated.

Energy and Climate Change Minister Amber Rudd said:

This winter the government has helped people save money while keeping warm – taking an average of £50 off household bills and making it quicker and easier to switch supplier. But to cut bills every winter people need to use less energy.

We’ve already improved over one million homes to make them more energy efficient and we want to help more. Thanks to the Green Deal Home Improvement Fund thousands of families will enjoy lower bills and a warmer home for years to come.

Martin Lewis, founder and editor of MoneySavingExpert.com, says:

There’s nothing that generates action better than free cash – which is what effectively the Home Improvement Fund is. So yet again demand is likely to be huge – the first time it was done £120m went in six weeks, then £24million went within 48 hours, so this time I suspect £70m to last not much longer than a week.

I’d suggest anyone who has already had a Green Deal assessment to be ready to pounce to make sure they aren’t left out in the cold. For those who haven’t but are interested, first do a quick online check which will tell you if it’s worth getting an assessment, if it is, then try and arrange one as soon as possible.

To complete the two-stage application process, householders will need:

  • A Green Deal Advice Report (GDAR) or Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) that is less than two years old;
  • A quote from a GDHIF registered installer or provider for work specified on the GDAR or EPC and included on the list of GDHIF approved measures; and
  • Proof of property ownership (for landlords/undertakings only) Householders are encouraged to get more than one quote, particularly when they are having expensive work done, to make sure they are getting the best deal available.

The up to £70 million available for release 3 is part of the additional £100 million for household energy efficiency announced in October 2014. This funding is in addition to the £450 million already allocated to household energy efficiency from 2014 – 17.

In providing a fund to householders the Green Deal Home Improvement Fund will create job opportunities for the energy efficiency sector as a whole. More than 1100 Green Deal authorised businesses are currently registered to provide work under the scheme.

Funds are limited and DECC may vary the terms of the scheme (including the incentive rates) or suspend or close the scheme, with immediate effect, without notice and at any time.

For more information, see how the Green Deal Home Improvement Fund works and how to apply.
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Pension freedoms protected and new breed of pension schemes become law

 

A revolution in pension scheme design, which could transform the retirement prospects for millions of younger workers, will now become possible with the passing of the Pension Schemes Act 2015.

The act, which received Her Majesty the Queen’s Royal Assent earlier today, also heralds new rules providing greater clarity for pension savers, as well as protection for those taking advantage of the new pension freedoms after 6 April 2015.

It marks a new era and will pave the way for greater choice for employers in the pensions they offer as well as for savers in how they access their pension savings.

Minister for Pensions Steve Webb said:

The passing of this act marks the culmination of a 5-year pensions revolution under this coalition government.

While for years successive governments simply watched the slow decline of the final salary scheme, we have responded by giving firms new ways of providing their staff with secure pensions.

There is a real appetite from employers to offer high-quality pensions for their staff and the new Defined Ambition pensions made possible by this act will enable a new generation of better, fairer schemes.

The act also protects the new pension freedoms and flexibilities, so people have control of their pension pots, and know it is a criminal offence for scammers to pretend to offer official Pension Wise guidance.

The landmark legislation passed today will create the opportunity for workers to save into plans – known as Defined Ambition – which will offer them a promise about some of the benefits they will receive.

Currently, a growing majority of workers who have a pension pay into Defined Contribution schemes which, while offering many advantages, do not give any guarantees of eventual income.

The Pension Schemes Act will also enable new collective pensions to operate in the UK. Schemes offering collective benefits will be able to pool risks between the members and this can provide greater stability and already operate successfully in other European countries.

These reforms come into effect shortly before ground-breaking new pension freedoms which are due to take effect in April.

The Pension Schemes Act also provides further protection measures for pension savers taking advantage of new flexibilities to access their pension pots from this April, including important new legislation on the new guidance service, Pension Wise.

Pension Wise. Your money. Your choice.

Economic Secretary to the Treasury Andrea Leadsom said:

Our radical pension reforms are about giving people more choice when they retire.

The government believes that people who have worked hard and saved all their lives should have the freedom to decide how to use their savings and the guidance to help them make good decisions.

Pension Wise empowers and educates people so they can make their own, informed choices about their pension and the legal framework for Pension Wise, including the rigorous standards set by the regulator for the service, comes into force today.

Today a new criminal offence comes into effect which means that people passing themselves off as providing the official Pension Wise service will face a fine or prison. This will help ensure Pension Wise is a brand and service that people trust and to protect people from potential scammers.

Pensions reforms and successes since 2010

The Pension Schemes Act builds on the government’s major pension reforms and successes since 2010.

Triple lock

Protection of the basic State Pension means the rate rises by the highest of growth in earnings, prices or 2.5%.

We have committed to spending £10 billion more on the basic state pension over this Parliament than would have been the case without our commitment to the triple lock.

Automatic enrolment

Over 5 million people have now been automatically enrolled into a workplace pension – to help millions save for retirement or save more for the first time.

Charge cap

In April 2015, a charge cap on default funds in defined contribution pension schemes will be introduced to ensure workers auto-enrolled into a workplace pension will be able to save with confidence.

Pension freedoms from 6 April 2015

From April 2015, individuals with a defined contribution pension will have the freedom to access their pension as they wish from age 55. The act also provides the legal framework for Pension Wise.

The Pension Schemes Act will allow schemes to offer flexibility without needing to go through the burdensome process of changing their scheme rules. It will also ensure that those with a Defined Benefit pension who want to access their pension flexibly will benefit from regulated financial advice to ensure that they make the right decision.

The Pension Schemes Act

The Pension Schemes Act is designed to make provision about pension schemes, including encouraging arrangements that offer people different levels of confidence in retirement or that involve different ways of sharing or pooling savings risks.

The act also includes important legislation on the new pension freedoms which will give people greater flexibility and help them make informed decisions about what to do with their savings.

The protection measures for pension savers include:

  • putting in place the new pension guidance service, Pension Wise, ensuring many individuals can transfer their pension savings if they want to access the new flexibilities
  • introducing an important safeguard so that, depending on the form of savings, people may need to obtain independent financial advice before they transfer

Read more about the Pensions Schemes Act on the Parliament website.

Lib Dems announce Green Homes Bill to insulate 10 million homes

The Liberal Democrats today (Tuesday, March 3) announced plans to introduce a new Green Homes Bill in the next Parliament which would improve energy efficiency and promote renewable heat across the UK, ensuring more people benefit from permanently warmer homes and cheaper energy bills.

The Green Homes Bill would build on the success of the policies for warmer homes the Liberal Democrats have delivered in Government: more than one million homes with better energy efficiency in just two years thanks to ECO and the Green Deal; legislation for Zero Carbon Homes in new build and regulations to ban landlords from renting out energy inefficient homes from April 2018; and an ambitious new Fuel Poverty Strategy.

The new Bill would ensure these achievements are built on, incentivising people to insulate their homes by:

● Offering at least £100 each year off your Council Tax for 10 years, when you significantly upgrade the energy efficiency of your home

● Reforming the Green Deal ‘pay as you save’ scheme into a new ‘Green Homes Loan Scheme’ which would extend the current scheme to include renewable heat and electricity

● A new ‘Feed out Tariff’ for investment in Solid Wall Insulation, the most expensive and disruptive type of energy efficiency measure

Liberal Democrats have set an energy efficiency ambition that every home should reach a high standard of energy efficiency by 2035. We believe energy efficiency should be one of our national infrastructure priorities and will support capital projects in this area for spending under our new fiscal rules that permit borrowing for “productive capital”, so long as debt is falling as a share of GDP.

Greg headshotCommenting Greg said:

“I am delighted that theLiberal Democrats have announced plans to insulate up to 10 million homes by 2025. As part of the coalition Government we already havehelped many residents install energy efficiency home improvements which will help control their energy bills.

“This announcement will build on that achievement, delivering a further 10 million energy efficient homes help millions of hard pressed consumers save energy and lower their bills.”

Deputy Prime Minister and Liberal Democrat Leader, Nick Clegg said:

“We relentlessly pushed the green agenda over the last five years in government, in the face of strong resistance from the Conservatives.

“Yet despite much needed progress, people particularly from vulnerable households still suffer from homes that are too cold and bills that are too high.

“Energy efficiency is the most important fuel we didn’t know we had. Insulating millions of homes will significantly improve the cost of living and quality of life of people across the UK.”

Secretary of State for Energy & Climate Change Ed Davey added:

“Lib Dems in Government have a proud record of improving the nation’s leaky housing stock resulting in permanently warmer homes and cheaper bills, including beating our own target of getting one million homes more energy efficient through ECO and the Green Deal in the past two years.

“This is a solid start but I now want to see nothing less than a Green Homes revolution, delivering 10 million energy efficient homes by 2025 through ambitious targets and generous incentives for people who carry out work to make their homes warmer, cheaper and greener.”
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