Ross Clark

How to warm your mansion with other people’s money

Let no one say this is not a redistributive government.

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Let no one say this is not a redistributive government. It is taking benefits away from the poor and giving them instead to people with large houses and a bit of spare capital. How? Through a great green energy scam, originally devised by Labour, which could not be better designed to penalise the poor and reward the rich. In fact, the government might just as well have come up with Spat Credits or a Top Hat Top-Up Allowance. Here is a brief guide to benefits for the better-off.

Got a roof space the size of half a football pitch? You can coin it by covering it with 4kW worth of photo-voltaic panels, thereby qualifying you for a 41.3p handout from your electricity company for every kilowatt-hour of electricity you produce. Not only that: you will earn a further 3p per kilowatt-hour for any of this electricity that you sell back to the national grid. The outlay is prohibitive for homeowners of modest means. But, if you have the capital, a £15,000 array of 21 panels will earn you just under £1,500 a year in payments, all subsidised by electricity customers who don’t have the roof space or can’t afford the outlay. Yes, that is a return of nearly 10 per cent — tax-free. What’s more, that payment is guaranteed for 25 years and is index-linked to the retail price index.

Middle-class and mourning the loss of your child benefit from 2013? Don’t worry: just get yourself a different kind of baby — a biomass boiler. That will qualify you for payments under the Renewable Heat Incentive, due to begin in June. Too bad if you don’t have the room for one — they are quite bulky and don’t really work on a scale suitable for a three-bed semi. But if you have a decent-sized farmhouse you can fit a £13,000 boiler with an output of under 45kW and the Treasury will pay you an annual benefit of 9p for every kilowatt-hour of energy you use for the next 15 years. Why not turn your heating up and enjoy it?

If you have at least half an acre of garden there is an alternative: a ground-source heat pump. That will earn you a payment straight from the taxpayer of 7p a kilowatt-hour for the energy you produce, guaranteed for the next 23 years. This should again translate into a tax-free return of around 10 per cent — and a nice warm mansion to boot.

Don’t forget, either, that for some reason I have never been able to fathom, the 2003 reform of the Common Agricultural Policy allows you to claim payments for your daughter’s pony paddock. And watch this space for ‘Environmental Credits’ — an idea floated by the Tories last year in which house builders developing green-field sites would be forced to buy credits from a landowner wanting to undertake improvements which would benefit wildlife. In other words, Barratt puts up a housing estate 20 miles away — and you get the cash for a new trout fishery.

Thank God for a government which believes in a proper benefits system.