Almshouses are 'left out in cold'

A loophole in the law is leaving almshouse charities out in the cold and making them pay extra for keeping residents warm and doing their bit to save the environment.

In the week when the picture of the heat escaping from the Houses of Parliament was splashed across the front pages of newspapers, the chief executive of the National Benevolent Institution has spoken out against the unfairness of the Government's energy efficiency grants.

Chris Hill said that some of the almshouses run by the institution are missing out on government energy-saving grants because they are neither individual bill-paying residents nor businesses that can reclaim corporation tax.

He added: "There is no way for us to claim the money back."

The main problem is with converted old houses in which all the flats have one electricity meter so the residents' names are not on the bill.

Of the 50 National Benevolent Institution almshouses, there are 39 houses that need to have insulation put in, but the charity will have to find £20,000 for the work. The charity believes this should be funded by local government grants.

Trevor Hargreaves, deputy director of the Almshouse Association, said that people have asked his organisation for advice.

He said that he would like to see a sympathetic reading of the law by local authorities so that almshouses can be included in the grants scheme.

"We would be keen to see almshouses treated the same way as individuals by local authorities, with energy efficiency grants."

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