Thursday, 2 April 2009

Southport 50 years in front of the times

Well it is not often you can have a headline claiming Southport is half a century in advance of most of the nation. Last night at Southport Area Committee we were reviewing the success of our pilot Homewarmers scheme in Birkdale. There is a full report here. This is an initiative by my colleague Councillor Shaw. He has always been a campaigner for energy efficiency and against fuel poverty. As an example he always keeps his house several degrees cooler than everyone else even in the most severe winter and was an early adopter of low energy efficient light bulbs. It therefore can as no surprise when he came up with this idea.

Sefton has been running a scheme else in the borough targeting household at risk of fuel poverty by face to face contact to encourage them to take up fuel efficient/energy conservation measures. The scheme has been evaluated and is recognised as a success. We wanted the scheme rolled out in Birkdale and used some of the small pot of money reserved for our ward to promote the scheme in a number of areas which we identified as appropriate. The area around Birkdale Primary School was leafleted and canvassed and a stall was set up in the school during their Christmas fair. The take up far exceeded expectations as the response was double that found in other areas. So well done Simon. The project has made a material difference to people's lives.

Why does this put Southport 50years in front surely insulation schemes have been around for a while now? Indeed they have (and 30 odd years ago working for Age Concern I ran a scheme funded by the old Manpower Services Commission which insulated thousands of pensioner's lofts in St Helens). Well it is a matter of cavity wall insulation. Apparent around the 1930's the cavity walls become the norm with a 2inch cavity as standard.

In Southport we were in the vanguard and introduced cavity walls as standard during the building boom of 1880s. Today when insulation firms turn up they dismiss the possibility of cavity walls in the Victorian terrace and semi detached houses in the town. Indeed our cavities are not the standard 2 inches which further confuses contractors from out of town. As part of this scheme we have sources a local contractor to carry out the work.

There is something peculiarly satisfying introducing a successful initiatives especially when you are confront with a cynical and obstructive opposition. In Southport the Lib Dem wards of Kew, Norwood and Cambridge swiftly followed Birkdale's lead. Now there are others chorusing 'Me Too'. Better late than never. It is too much to hope that they would have the grace to acknowledge their change of heart.