JUST 44 households a week across the region showed an interest in a much-hyped Government scheme to cut energy bills.
Only 395 ‘Green Deal’ assessments – to decide whether to take out a loan to lag a loft, fill cavity walls, or replace an old boiler – took place in two months.
Furthermore, the Government is unable to say whether any of those 395 households have actually signed up to the Green Deal. Just 306 families have, across England.
Labour leapt on the statistics to claim its predictions that the scheme would flop – because of sky-high interest rates and frightening bureaucracy – had been proved correct.
Luciana Berger, the party’s energy spokeswoman, said “over 99 per cent” of people choosing an assessment were deciding not to go ahead with a Green Deal plan.
And she added: “The Green Deal was billed as the biggest home improvements programme since the Second World War, but the scheme is still struggling to get off the ground.
“It is not good enough for ministers to shrug their shoulders and dismiss this as a slow start – not when thousands of workers in the insulation industry have lost their jobs.”
The scheme was launched in January, with the aim of attracting 10,000 households to sign up to energy-efficiency packages by the end of this year – and 14m by 2020.
However, by the end of March, only 83 families in County Durham had arranged visits by experts to offer advice on which measures could cut bills in their homes.
Even that total dwarfed the numbers in Stockton-on-Tees (25), Sunderland (24), Darlington (22), Redcar and Cleveland (18), Middlesbrough (16) and Hartlepool (10).
Interest was particularly low in North Yorkshire, particularly in Richmondshire (6), Ryedale (9), Scarborough (11) and Hambleton (12).
The department for energy and climate change (DECC) said 13,500 assessments were now being carried out per month – up from around 7,500 in March.
However, the most recent breakdown available, per local authority, is up to the end of March, when 395 had been carried out across the North-East and North Yorkshire.
Similarly, the department could not say how many of the 306 signed Green Deals were in each area. Not one scheme has been completed.
Under the initiative, homeowners take out 15 to 20-year loans for work – with the guarantee that repayments will be lower than the savings on their bills.
But critics said the interest rate charged - almost seven per cent – immediately called into question whether families would always emerge as winners.
Some Tories have criticised the Lib Dems for rejecting suggestions to pilot the Green Deal in social housing, to get it off the ground quickly.
But Greg Barker, the energy minister, insisted the number of Green Deals would quickly accelerate, because “another 50-plus companies” were now ready to offer finance.