PLANS to insulate 1,500 draughty homes in Southampton and cut energy bills are hanging by a thread after a Government U-turn.
The city council is poised to dramatically downgrade the £30m project after funding was slashed in what has been dubbed a “dirty deal with the energy companies”.
Now the prospect has been condemned by Test MP Alan Whitehead, who accused ministers of leaving Southampton in the lurch.
The Labour MP said the plans had been expected to create up to 900 jobs, as well as safeguarding a further 300.
And he added: “It was all very rosy, until the Government announcement was made.
“It may be that some of the programme can be saved, but the prospects for thousands of Southampton residents are largely off the agenda now.
“They could have had lifechanging reductions in their energy bills, transforming some of the worst insulated properties in the city.”
The row has reached Westminster, where Caroline Flint, Labour’s energy spokeswoman, said: “Thousands of households will be left in the cold because of the Government’s dirty deal with the energy companies.”
The project has hit trouble because of David Cameron’s decision last December to remove some so-called ‘green levies’ from energy bills.
Under fierce pressure after Labour’s pledge to freeze bills, the Prime Minister was reported to have ordered aides to “get rid of all the green crap”.
As a result, the energy company obligation (ECO), an insulation scheme delivered by major energy suppliers, was cut back, taking £30-£35 off bills.
However, Labour has now uncovered 49 schemes around the country which have been scrapped or put on hold as a result. The Labour-run authority planned to upgrade 1,500 homes over two years, putting in “external wall insulation, replacement windows and new heating systems”.
The project was due to start this summer, but a city council spokesman said: “The process is being reviewed, following the autumn statement.
“New figures are being produced to show the changes in funding that Southampton City Council will have to contribute to the scheme of works that was originally planned.
“Following this, a decision will be made on the level of work and locations of where it will commence.”