Lib Dems amend Sadiq Khan's budget to include £700,000 for 'green doctors'

Green doctors offer advice and support with making homes more energy efficient (PA Wire)
Green doctors offer advice and support with making homes more energy efficient (PA Wire)

Sadiq Khan has been forced to consider putting £700,000 into a service aimed at insulating homes and cutting Londoners’ energy bills.

The Liberal Democrats and Greens at City Hall united on Thursday to add the proposal to the Labour mayor’s draft budget.

The London Assembly’s Lib Dem group, who put the amendment forward, point out that 37 per cent of London’s greenhouse gas emissions come from domestic energy use, making it by far the capital’s biggest source of emissions.

The proposal argued that there was a “missed opportunity” in the mayor’s draft budget “to offer direct help to Londoners in their homes to reduce their emissions, and therefore their bills”.

It would do this by providing “a scheme such as Groundwork’s Green Doctors, allowing every Londoner who wants it access to support”.

Groundwork is a charity and its Green Doctors scheme offers free and impartial advice on green home upgrades, such as insulation and LED lightbulbs.

By law, Mr Khan is now required to “respond to” the Lib Dem amendment. If he chooses not to take it forward, the Assembly could force him to add it to his budget if members vote the same way as they did on Thursday - though this has never happened before in the Assembly’s 24-year history.

In the five years to 2020, Green Doctors is said to have supported 18,000 Londoners to reduce their energy use with free appointments at home, following partnerships with some of London’s borough councils and organisations like housing associations.

To be eligible for support from the charity, criteria include having disabilities or long term health conditions, being pregnant, having children under 10, or having an income below £16,190 per year, among a few other scenarios.

The Lib Dems proposed that City Hall put £700,000 towards the Green Doctors scheme to open its services up to all Londoners that want it, without needing to meet the eligibility criteria, though Londoners already eligible would continue to be prioritised for visits.

The expanded programme would run as a one-year pilot scheme to gauge interest in the service, and to give the service time to recruit and train further staff as required.

The proposal passed with five votes from the Assembly’s Lib Dem and Green groups. The 11-strong Labour group and nine-strong Conservative group abstained.

Labour said it was abstaining because it was unclear to them how the proposals would add to programmes and services already being provided by City Hall.

A separate amendment put forward by the Lib Dems proposed the creation of an Erasmus-style scheme for Londoners, to allow more youth exchange and volunteering opportunities internationally. This was voted down by the Labour group, though the Greens voted in favour and the Conservatives abstained. Labour said that the mayor has already called for the UK to rejoin the Erasmus scheme and that a pilot was not necessary.

An amendment tabled by the Greens proposed several measures, including more funding for toilets on London’s Tube and bus network, bringing back free travel for the elderly during the morning rush hour, and putting money towards a Universal Basic Income (UBI) pilot programme. Labour voted it down, while the Lib Dems and Conservatives abstained.

Neither Labour nor the Conservatives tabled amendments of their own. Conservative group leader Neil Garratt said his party was waiting until the mayor’s final draft budget is published before putting forward suggestions, because Mr Khan may announce significant changes to his spending plans in the meantime.