MAGGIE PAGANO: Britain's big builders are the real energy culprits


The ruckus over customers being given heat saving tips by energy suppliers disguises a bigger problem – that British homes are among the most poorly built and leakiest in western Europe.

So when the cold weather does set in – and energy prices spike as they have done over the past few months – households face a big hike in heating bills.

As well as lousy Government policy on the energy price cap, much of the blame should also be laid at the door of Britain’s big housebuilders, which for decades have been putting up low-quality housing.

Lagging behind: Too many homes built in the UK over the past 50 years are in the dark ages compared to those on the continent where double, if not triple glazing is par for the course

Lagging behind: Too many homes built in the UK over the past 50 years are in the dark ages compared to those on the continent where double, if not triple glazing is par for the course

They have been allowed to get away with such poor standards on all aspects of building – from insulation to quality of workmanship – because of lax Government regulations.

Too many homes built in the UK over the past 50 years are in the dark ages compared to those on the continent where double, if not triple glazing, and underfloor heating are par for the course.

Who can forget the damning Dispatches TV programme two years ago about the hundreds of new-builds by Persimmon, our second biggest builder, which had multiple defects from no fire safety barriers to wobbling walls? Yet Persimmon had a five-star rating from the Home Builders Federation.

Which is why all the various plans afoot by the Government to help customers with energy bills in coming months are just sticking plaster, and missing the bigger issue.

It’s only by insisting that developers build to the highest levels in the future, and by helping homeowners improve insulation, that we will get anywhere close to solving the problem.

Households could save at least £500 a year with better insulation, according to the Energy Efficiency Infrastructure Group.

As well as a proper grown-up energy policy, the Government should be working fast to devise workable insulation schemes rather than the various gimmicky ones it usually comes up with. 

The last one, the Green Homes Plan, lasted six months. Until then, it’s worth taking on board the Ovo Energy tips to its customers to help save on heating, which have had to be withdrawn because they are deemed offensive.

Contrary to public opinion, they are eminently sensible: eating porridge for breakfast, putting on another jumper and doing a couple of star jumps are just common sense.

Supermarket cheap

As shoppers are fast finding out, a little Lidl goes a long way.

The German discounter claims to be the UK’s fastest growing bricks-and-mortar supermarket after great Christmas sales.

In the four weeks to December 26, Lidl reports sales rose 2.6 per cent, mainly because so many customers switched from other supermarkets because of its competitive pricing.

What Lidl failed to show though – like its German arch-rival Aldi – is whether the sales increase came from existing stores or its recently opened ones.

This would be pertinent to how sales are doing overall, as eight stores opened in December alone. Lidl also boasts that sales over the past two years are up by 21 per cent.

Yet Lidl’s claim that it is the fastest-growing supermarket during the festive season is under challenge as grocery tracker Nielsen suggests that Marks & Spencer was the fastest-growing food retailer, with a 9.4 per cent rise in sales over the past three months, while sales at Lidl were up 8.5 per cent.

Sounds to me rather like there is a lot of splitting of hairs going on as to who has done the best. 

But this fierce competition can only be good for the shopper in terms of prices. Such is the competition that Lidl has even promised that it will remain the lowest-cost destination.

Tesco and Sainsbury’s are now due to give their updates, so we will get a fuller picture of the overall sector. 

What is clear is that total food sales were up over the festive period and Nielsen forecast Britons spent £7billion on food in the two weeks to Christmas. In contrast, online non-food sales were down by a sharp 14 per cent in December.

Hardly a surprise, with most customers still stuck in semi-lockdown WFH limbo.

Lawyers beware

Don’t be envious that newly qualified lawyers are being offered £150,000 a year as a starting salary. Most of the firms paying these big bucks are American.

Paradoxically, one of the reasons they are having to fork out so much is that so many young lawyers are leaving: all part of what is being called the Great Resignation.

The reason they are leaving is because they are burnt out and overworked.

Some links in this article may be affiliate links. If you click on them we may earn a small commission. That helps us fund This Is Money, and keep it free to use. We do not write articles to promote products. We do not allow any commercial relationship to affect our editorial independence.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here