Deletion of NI 187: Removal of a burden or hiding an issue?

Mark Sreeves

While it had been signalled for some time, it was announced by the Audit Commission at the beginning of January that National Indicator 187 (the Local Authorities obligation to report on fuel poverty) had been ‘deleted’.

The system of National Indicators has not been around for that long, having only come in to force in 2008, and in fact one of the main arguments for its introduction (which is an argument that is now also being used for the current change) was that by replacing the pre-existing system of ‘Best Value Performance Indicators’ it was removing bureaucratic burdens.

The Best Value Performance Indicator (BVPI) 63 obliged local authorities to report on the energy efficiency of their managed housing stocks on an annual basis. While it was a challenge to provide these figures and the guideline about assessment and collection were not clear, they provided a focus on energy efficiency of the dwellings they managed. In addition, the obligation to produce a regular HECA (Home Energy Conservation Act) Report, originally introduced in the mid 1990s, was also removed.

It can be argued, as indeed the current Government has done, that the removal of unnecessary bureaucratic burdens is a good thing and like being against motherhood and apple pie it’s a bit difficult to make a counter argument. But nonetheless I believe there is a counter argument to be made.

Why is it important to retain the obligation to report on energy efficiency or carbon? The issue here is not necessarily the specific information that is being produced—this has varied over time. But more to the point is the focus that is being imposed on local authorities by central government. This area is important and you will report on it. In this way the relative importance of the issue is being stressed and therefore should figure more highly in the range of issues that the authority have to balance.

I am not employed by a local authority to report on a variety of indicators and I am not jealous of those that are. But the statistics that are produced in this way, depending on how well defined they are provide a good indication of how we are doing on a particular issue.

If we think that improving the energy efficiency of the housing stock is important, that carbon reduction needs to be encouraged, and that people on fixed and limited incomes should be able to afford to heat their homes affordably then information on how well we are meeting these objectives is vital.

The removal of these reporting tools and the shift toward locally set targets is making it more difficult to know if we are meeting these goals.

The one area where the reporting obligation remains is with Housing Associations as part of the annual RSR. But even that is brought into question with the proposed abolition of the current regulatory body, the Tenant Services Authority (TSA). The regulatory process is to be reviewed and the TSA’s role will be taken over by the Homes and Community Agency from April 2012. Will the rationalisation of the regulation of Housing Association include removing the requirement to report on energy efficiency? At the moment we don’t know and we will have to wait and see.

This article originally appeared in Issue 12 of NHER Social Housing News. See the entire newsletter here.

The views expressed in this blog article are the personal views of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views or policies of National Energy Services.  When submitting a comment, please be aware of the guidelines provided in our website terms and conditions.


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