The UK’s Liquefied Petroleum Gas Association (UKLPG) has welcomed the confirmation of a £25 million government capital funding programme to support local authorities and their partners to tackle fuel poverty.

The trade body has, however, raised concerns that truly rural properties will, once again, miss out on the support, leading to further inequality between rural and urban homes. 

The Department of Energy & Climate Change (DECC) expects the Central Heating Fund to help up to 8,000 fuel poor homes that are not connected to the UK gas grid by installing first-time central heating systems.

Local authorities will have flexibility in their choice of central heating measures, with condensing LPG boilers and heat pumps included within the options available.

“We welcome the new Central Heating Fund as a positive step forward in the battle to tackle fuel poverty and the challenges of ensuring off-grid properties are properly and efficiently heated,” said Rob Shuttleworth, chief executive officer of UKLPG.

“However, we are concerned that there is the potential, once again, for the truly rural homes to be missed. While the Central Heating Fund will provide higher weighting for applications that support delivery to rural properties over non-rural properties when the bids are assessed in the summer, there is still a lack of clarity when it comes to understanding the practical implications of installation in a truly rural home.” 

Mr Shuttleworth explained that £25 million designated for 8,000 properties works out at less than £3,500 per home, which he said is just not enough to install first-time central heating in some of the older and trickier rural dwellings.

Additionally, data shows that the previous CERT, CESP and ECO schemes have all delivered substantially more benefit to urban areas compared with their rural counterparts.

“We welcome the commitment of all political parties to energy efficiency and the eradication of fuel poverty,” Mr Shuttleworth continued. “However, there is still misunderstanding around how these issues affect rural Britain. Off-grid heating policy fails to address the needs of off-grid households and continues to limit consumer choice. We are urging government to support ring-fencing funding specifically for the rural sector, as well as introducing a boiler replacement programme. 

“Around two million homes - that’s 4.6 million people - do not have access to the mains grid in the UK. However, the widely variable quality and age of housing stock, combined with lack of accessibility to infrastructure means that a one-size-fits-all solution to rural poverty and energy efficiency will not work.”

The Central Heating Fund is the first step in an approach to meet the new statutory target of as many fuel poor homes as reasonably practicable achieving a minimum energy efficiency rating of Band C by 2030. The government has also announced further detail on its ‘warmth on prescription’ fund, which will help nine local authorities to help those in fuel poverty whose health is affected by cold homes.