LONDON (Reuters) – British finance minister Rishi Sunak earmarked 3 billion pounds ($3.75 billion) to improve the energy efficiency of homes and public buildings as part of broader plans to kickstart the economy and support jobs.
Ahead of an announcement on Wednesday of its next moves to soften the hit from the coronavirus lockdown, the finance ministry said households would be given 2 billion pounds in grants — worth up to 5,000 pounds each — to cover two thirds of the costs of insulation and double-glazing of windows.
The poorest families will receive up to 10,000 pounds without having to pay anything, the finance ministry said.
The remaining 1 billion pounds will be spent on reducing greenhouse gas emissions from public-sector buildings.
Sunak is expected to focus Wednesday’s announcement mostly on countering a jump in unemployment — which the Bank of England has said could soar to 1980s levels of around 10% or more.
He has already rushed out an estimated 133 billion pounds ($166 billion) of emergency measures, most of them to try to stem the rise in unemployment.
The finance ministry said the energy efficiency plan could support over 100,000 jobs.
Media have said Sunak plans to give homebuyers a tax break and cut value-added tax for pubs, restaurants and other hospitality firms.
The Resolution Foundation think tank said a further 200 billion pounds was needed over the next two years, including 34 billion pounds on extending job and wage support measures which are due to expire at the end of October.
It also called for 30 billion pounds in vouchers for the public to spend on face-to-face retail, hospitality and leisure.
The 3 billion-pound environment plan was part of a 9.2 billion-pound commitment made by Prime Minister Boris Johnson before December’s election for energy efficiency investment.
Green New Deal UK, a nonprofit campaign group, said Sunak and Johnson had to go further.
“This announcement could mark a step in the right direction,” Fatima Ibrahim, the group’s co-executive director, said. “But to deliver on its promises, we need to see a lot more commitment and ambition.”
($1 = 0.7996 pounds)
(Writing by William Schomberg; Editing by Catherine Evans)