What is the government home improvement scheme and how does it work?

1 October 2020, 13:42

The home improvements scheme is open for applications
The home improvements scheme is open for applications.

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What is the government’s green voucher scheme 2020 and how can I apply? Find out everything…

The Green Homes Grant scheme is now open for homeowners in England to make energy-efficient improvements to their houses.

Outlined back in July, the voucher plan sees the government pay two-thirds of the cost of any green updates to the value of £5,000 per household.

This can include insulation, double glazing and heat pumps, but doesn’t cover gas boilers.

So, here’s everything you need to know about the green home improvement scheme…

Rishi Sunak announced the Green Homes Grant
Rishi Sunak announced the Green Homes Grant.

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What is the Green Homes Grant?

The Green Homes Grant scheme will provide £2bn for home improvement projects as part of a wider £3bn government plan to cut carbon emissions.

This will see vouchers handed out to homeowners which can be used towards making specific energy-efficient improvements to homes.

You need to install at least one primary improvement to be eligible for the Green Homes Grant which include:

– Insulation, including solid wall, cavity wall, underfloor, loft or roof insulation

– Low-carbon heating, such as air-source or ground-source heat pumps, or solar thermal systems, which provide renewable ways of heating your home

You can then get up to the same amount for secondary improvements which include:

– Draught-proofing

– Double or triple glazing, or secondary glazing

– Energy efficient doors, where you’re replacing single-glazed or solid doors installed before 2002

– Heating controls and insulation

Gas boilers are not covered by the scheme.

You can only receive funding for secondary improvements up to the amount of funding you get for the primary measures.

So if you receive £2,000 towards cavity wall insulation, you can only receive a maximum of £2,000 towards any secondary measures.

How can I apply for the Green Homes Grant?

It’s thought that 650,000 homes in England will be covered by the grant with both homeowners and landlords eligible.

Households in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland cannot apply for the scheme.

Firstly, you need to use the Simple Energy Advice (SEA) service to see if you’re eligible and check which energy efficiency improvements can be made to your home.

You’ll then need to find TrustMark and/or Microgeneration Certification Scheme (MCS) registered tradesperson to get the work done. It’s recommended you find at least three quotes before going ahead.

You can then apply online using the government website to obtain a voucher.

To complete step three, you’ll need:

– the name and date of birth of the property owner or owners

– the name and date of birth of anyone living in the property who is receiving benefits

– a quote for the work from a TrustMark-registered tradesperson

– the TrustMark licence number of your chosen tradesperson

Once the work is complete, you’ll need a dated copy of the invoice provided by the installer to redeem the voucher.

The grant will be paid directly to

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TMC Starts ‘Mamata’s Kitchen’ Scheme to Provide Migrant Workers Meals for Rs 5

Kolkata: With an aim to support lakhs of migrant workers who have suffered a massive financial setback due to job losses due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Trinamool Congress has started a community kitchen under the name, ‘Didir Rannaghar (Mamata’s kitchen)’.

At ‘Didir Rannaghar’, a meal would cost as little as Rs 5 during the Durga Puja period. The kitchen will be functional every day between 11 am and 3 pm, and the menu (which will change every day) will be mostly vegetarian and include rice, dal (pulses), mix vegetable, ‘shukto’ (vegetable stew) soyabean, ‘Khichdi’ (cooked rice and lentils), papad.

As Bengal prepares itself for “measured” Durga Puja celebrations this year amid social distancing, the kitchen initiative by Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee in association with various party clubs is likely to bring smiles on lakhs of people who are struggling to find even one square meal a day.

These kitchens have already started functioning in Howrah district, Belgachhia (in Kolkata) and Barrackpore in North 24-Parganas district. The TMC also plans to run similar kitchens across the state for the duration of the festive season.

Speaking to the News18, TMC MLA Tapas Roy said, “Under the leadership of Mamata Banerjee, we have decided to stand beside the people, primarily those belonging to the underprivileged sections/unorganised sectors as they have suffered a lot due to the pandemic situation. We are hopeful that ‘Didir Rannaghar’ will benefit them immensely.”

“Apart from cooked food, we are planning to donate clothes to the poor so they can wear new clothes during the festive seasons. ‘Didir Rannaghar’ is a pledge undertaken by the TMC to support those who are battling to feed their family members due to job loss.”

A special attention will be paid to hygiene in these kitchens and to make them popular, several posters with public hygiene messages will be put up at block level.

CPI (M) has already started nearly 700 ‘Sramojibi canteen’ (community kitchen) across the state. The party has also also initiated 50 health clinics and safe houses for the poor who cannot afford expensive health care facilities.

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N.J. man accused of ‘house-of-cards-style’ scheme that embezzled hundreds of thousands

A Burlington County man allegedly duped people into paying him hundreds of thousands of dollars by jumping from a fraudulent foreign currency trading scheme to a fraudulent car lease scheme, in a “house-of-cards-style” operation, authorities said.

On Friday, authorities arrested Michael Salerno, 51, of Mount Laurel and charged him with 23 counts of wire fraud and six counts of mail fraud in an indictment, Philadelphia U.S. Attorney Jennifer Arbittier Williams said in a statement. Through multiple fraud schemes, Salerno allegedly stole thousands from people by tricking them into paying him for a foreign currency trading business and then by getting to them to pay for car leases, the statement said.

Between September 2016 and November 2018, Salerno ran multiple businesses that each were supposedly trading foreign currencies, the statement said. By lying to clients, Salerno had victims pay advance fees that were usually more than $1,000 to hire him, he said.

Salerno allegedly told victims that if one of his companies were hired, he would give them access to $10 million to use on the foreign currency market. To instill confidence in him and his businesses, Salerno posed as a “sophisticated and successful” businessman, despite having a history of bankruptcy and federal tax charges, according to the statement.

Through his network of fraudulent foreign currency trading businesses, Salerno embezzled more than $300,000 from victims, the statement said.

In 2018, the U.S. Attorney’s office started a criminal investigation into Salerno and the Commodity Futures Trading Commission filed an injunction against him, the statement said. But Salerno simply moved to the next scheme, the statement said, shifting his efforts to a car lease and loan scheme.

Between May 2018 and December 2019, Salerno ran AccuOne Financial, Inc., a company that claimed to help clients get ride of “unwanted automobile leases,” the statement said. At the same time, the company also claimed to offer automobile leases to people with credit that prevented them from getting a lease.

In order to scam both sets of clients, Salerno would take the cars from the first set of clients, barely making any lease payments, and then gave the cars to the second set of clients, who paid him monthly fees, the statement said.

The clients who wanted to get out of their leases would ultimately end up continuing to make payments, while the other clients would sometimes have cars repossessed, the statement said. In this scheme, Salerno stole hundreds of thousands of dollars from victims, the statement said.

“When Salerno’s foreign currency trading scheme came crashing down around him, he very quickly moved on to an alternative way of swindling people out of their money with car leases and loans,” Williams said in the statement. “The damage done by such corrupt financial schemes can be catastrophic to innocent people’s credit and financial security. We will continue to hold those who commit crimes like the ones alleged here accountable for their misdeeds.”

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What is shared ownership? How the home buying scheme works

The shared ownership scheme has been extended. Photo: Reuters/Neil Hall
The shared ownership scheme has been extended. Photo: Reuters/Neil Hall

The UK government has announced a shakeup of the shared ownership scheme in England, in a drive to help more households buy their own homes.

Plans unveiled on Tuesday will see more first-time buyers and social housing tenants able to part-buy their homes, as well as a wave of new homes, with some properties available for shared ownership.

The changes affect shared ownership in England, with different rules in Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland as housing policy is devolved.

What is shared ownership?

Shared ownership schemes involve buying a share of a property with a mortgage or lump sum, and paying rent for the rest to the owner of the remaining share.

Most shared ownership homes are part-owned by housing associations, but some councils and private developers also run similar schemes.

Around 157,000 households are reported to live in shared ownership homes in England, representing less than 1% of all households.

How is shared ownership changing?

Buyers have to be able to afford at least 25% of a home to be eligible for the scheme in England. The government now plans to reduce the minimum stake to 10%, as the current rules mean even part-ownership remains unaffordable for many households.

Other changes should make it easier for current part-owners to buy more of their homes, in a process known as “staircasing.”

READ MORE: Government spends £12.2bn on up to 180,000 new homes in England

They will be able to buy additional shares in 1% instalments, rather than 10%, and fees will be cut.

New shared owners will also see the landlord cover the cost of repairs and maintenance for the first 10 years.

What are the pros of shared ownership?

Such part-buy, part-rent arrangements make it easier for people to get on the housing ladder, as the deposit and mortgage payments needed are much lower than a standard purchase with a mortgage.

The buyer’s payments every month will include rent and interest fees if they buy with a repayment mortgage, but they will also include repaying the loan—gradually building up their stake in the property. This stake can be increased further by buying additional shares.

READ MORE: Britain warned it’s heading towards a housing bubble

Properties are leasehold so may require the freeholder’s consent for alterations, but buyers are more likely to be able to renovate and make their homes their own than renters.

What are the cons?

Research by House of Commons staff earlier this year noted shared ownership is complex for buyers, lenders and providers to understand.

It also said mortgage availability is “limited,” increasing a part-owner’s stake is costly, and re-sale can be difficult.

Housing charity Shelter says the UK government should prioritise building genuinely affordable social housing, warning many renters have no savings and cannot afford even part-ownership.

Who can apply for shared ownership?

The government rules mean shared ownership is available only for households with a total income under £80,000 a year, or

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Former ComEd VP charged with bribery conspiracy in scheme to sway House Speaker Michael Madigan

A former vice president for ComEd was charged Friday with bribery conspiracy alleging he helped orchestrate a scheme to pay political allies of powerful Democratic House Speaker Michael Madigan to influence legislation in Springfield that would benefit the utility.

Fidel Marquez, a longtime lobbyist and former senior vice president of governmental affairs at ComEd, was charged in a one-count criminal information made public late Friday.

Marquez was the first person to be charged in the ongoing investigation of an elaborate bribery scheme aimed at influencing legislation in Springfield by making payments to Madigan associates and approved lobbyists, some of whom did little or no actual work for the company.

ComEd was charged with bribery in July and has entered into a deferred prosecution agreement with the government, agreeing to pay a record $200 million fine and cooperate with investigators in exchange for the charges being dropped in three years.

Defendants who are charged via criminal information — as opposed to grand jury indictment — likely intend to plead guilty. Neither Marquez nor his attorney could immediately be reached for comment.

Madigan, the nation’s longest-serving speaker and Illinois Democratic Party chairman, has denied any wrongdoing and has not been charged.

The four-page information against Marquez alleged that from 2011 to 2019, he conspired with others to corruptly solicit jobs, contracts and monetary payments for the benefit of Madigan — identified as Public Official A — and his associates with the intent of influencing legislation beneficial to ComEd.

Specifically, on July 30, 2018, Marquez directed a $37,500 payment to Company 1, “a substantial portion of which was intended for associates of (Madigan),” the information stated.

The Chicago Tribune reported last year that Marquez was a focus of the federal investigation, as is former ComEd CEO Anne Pramaggiore, who abruptly retired last year. Pramaggiore has not been charged. A Pramaggiore spokesman has said that she “has done nothing wrong and any inference to the contrary is misguided and false.”

Prosecutors have said ComEd’s scheme began around 2011 — when key regulatory matters were before the Illinois House that Madigan controls — and continued through last year.

Many of the illegal payments allegedly were arranged by downstate lobbyist Michael McClain, a key confidant and adviser at the center of the probe, according to court records. McClain also has not been charged.

One example cited in ComEd’s deferred prosecution agreement involved a man identified as “Consultant 1,” who allegedly was speaking to a ComEd executive identified by the Tribune as Marquez. The consultant said he believed McClain had spoken to Madigan about the payments, saying the money was “to keep (Public Official A) happy (and) I think it’s worth it, because you’d hear otherwise,” prosecutors alleged.

Records show ComEd tried to clean up its lobbying operation in the midst of the investigation last year. One of those departing was Marquez. ComEd officially announced it on Sept. 23, saying only that Marquez was “retiring after 39 years of service.”

Marquez, who has homes in Chicago

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