Retrofit skills revolution needed in London, say council leaders

London retrofit

Local government leaders in central London have called for urgent action to kick-start a retrofit skills revolution in the capital.

The call comes as new analysis shows the scale of work needed to reduce emissions from homes and buildings. 

The analysis was carried out by construction industry experts Whole Life Consultants on behalf of Central London Forward, which represents the 12 central London local authorities. 

According to the research, retrofitting every property in the capital with an Energy Performance Certificate level C or below would require 148,000 person years of labour. This is equivalent to the output of 148,000 people working full time for a year. 

Depending on the pace of roll-out, by the end of the decade, a workforce of between 19,000 and 28,000 skilled workers would be required to deliver retrofit in central London alone. 

Most of the labour demand (60%) relates to retrofitting homes, with almost 40% relating to non-domestic properties. 

The research indicates that the number of scaffolders required to retrofit buildings in the 12 central London boroughs alone exceeds the total number of scaffolders expected to be working across the capital as a whole in the next four years. 

In three other trades – roofing, glaziers and building envelope specialists – the demand generated by retrofit in central London exceeds 20% of the likely workforce for these trades across the capital. 

Call for action on retrofit

Ahead of the Autumn Statement (22 November), central London’s local authorities are calling on the chancellor to: 

  • Scale up investment in retrofit, including through increasing and accelerating the £3.8bn Social Housing Decarbonisation Fund;
  • Work with local authorities in central London and elsewhere to develop local retrofit partnerships.

Councillor Kieron Williams, chair of Central London Forward and leader of Southwark Council, said: “Retrofitting homes across London and the country has the potential to be a huge win, win, win – bringing thousands of good quality jobs, cheaper energy bills, and lower carbon emissions.

“But we need urgent action to ramp up training, so we have the skilled workforce needed to deliver warmer, greener homes.”

Williams added: “Government must invest to pump-prime the market. The stop-start approach to funding over recent years has not worked. It has left businesses without the certainty they need to scale up delivery, skill up their workforce and drive down costs. 

“We need a new long-term plan, working with local authorities and business, so that together we can upgrade Britain’s drafty homes.”

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