A PUSH for more eco-friendly home improvements is just ‘a drop in the ocean’ in the battle against climate change, say Swindon environmentalists.

A major new investment announced by the government will see £2 billion spent on helping homeowners and landlords make their houses more energy efficient by giving out grants that cover two-thirds of the cost of carrying out the work (up to £5,000).

People living in low-income homes will be able to receive up to £10,000 for their improvements. And another billion will be spent on improving the energy efficiency of public sector buildings.

But Swindon’s Green Party chair Andy Bentley argues that this does not go far enough to bring down carbon emissions.

He said: “It’s not nearly enough and is a token amount compared to the government’s spending in other areas like the £27 billion previously-announced for building roads. That’s nearly 10 times the amount being spent on damaging the climate than the amount they’re spending on repairing it.

“Their priorities are all wrong. Given the scale of the emergency we are facing with climate change and the opportunities for improvement coming out of the Covid crisis, it’s a drop in the ocean.

“Had the stimulus to get us out of this pandemic been a more ambitious scheme for developing and deploying renewable energy by, say, adding solar panels to every home, that would have been better. Instead, they gave us £10 off Nando’s, which is a good headline but does not really help anyone.”

Other plans laid out in Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak’s mini budget have been more warmly welcomed. Homeowners looking to move or first-time buyers hoping to get their foot on the property ladder will be helped by the temporary raising of the stamp duty threshold from £150,000 to £500,000 until March 31.

This means that no stamp duty will have to be paid unless buyers spend more than half a million on their new homes.

Richard James is the CEO of Richard James Estate Agents in Old Town. He said: “Obviously this is good news for the wider economy. The housing market is such a key driver of the economy and supports so many jobs and industries both directly and indirectly.

“The chancellor wants people to continue to spend and support the economy and to do that people need to feel secure about the value of their biggest asset.

“Running the scheme through until March and keeping interest rates at rock bottom levels is sensible as it will ensure that the enthusiasm and activity we are seeing at the moment continues into next year.”

The Department of Work and Pensions will have an extra billion pounds to spend on recruiting more job coaches and helping 18-to-24-year-olds find work.

Swindon Jobcentre manager Julie Marshall said: “It’s so exciting, this is a big investment and a positive move. We will be putting in place more tailored one-to-one support to help clients with their individual needs.

“This is particularly important for young people because they may not know what they want to do after leaving school, it’s an important time in their life.

“This funding will give us more time to show them all the options available and find the job that’s right for them based on the sort of work they are looking for.”