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Did you hear the one about the Green Deal?

What do you get if you cross a high-profile, controversial scheme with a couple of well-known, trusted, politically savvy leaders who have a track record of delivery?

Answer: High Speed 2 – and the likelihood that the project is a lot more likely to be a success.

What, on the other hand, do you get if you cross a badly needed, well-meant but complex consumer initiative with a lack of explanation, and a reliance on energy companies and estate agents (among others) to help promote the scheme?

Answer: the Green Deal, which, a year after it launched, is in progress in just 1,612 households.

Crucial similiarities

On the surface, HS2 and the Green Deal appear to have little in common. But the success of both schemes hangs in large part on reassurance over and explanation of their benefits, bipartisan political support, public approval and trust.

“The Green Deal limps along, with no one really showing confidence in it and no one standing up and convincing the public it’s safe in their hands”

When it looked as if the wheels might come off HS2 last summer, the government appointed Sir David Higgins as its chairman. Within hours he was on the radio sounding reasonable, conciliatory and confident, and able to use the fact that he was the man who delivered the Olympics on time and to budget as a reassuring shorthand for all he could achieve.

Now, Simon Kirby, one of Sir David’s right-hand men when he was chief executive of Network Rail, has followed in his former boss’s footsteps and switched tracks to join HS2 as its chief executive.

Both men have proved they can deliver and are trusted by the construction industry.

They will still need bipartisan political support (not yet a certainty in Labour’s case) but by coming on board they are demonstrating that they are prepared to put their own reputations on the line to deliver a project they believe in. This kind of visible leadership makes a huge difference.

Case for the defence?

Meanwhile, the Green Deal limps along, with no one really showing confidence in it, and certainly no one standing up and convincing the public it’s safe in their hands.

Small builders, which Greg Barker tells Construction News this week have so far been quickest to adapt their businesses to deliver it, as opposed to giants such as Carillion, for example, issued an anniversary ‘report card’ via the Federation of Master Builders rating the Green Deal 2 out of 5.

And even that appears generous of them.

If the Green Deal is to succeed it needs a champion, an overhaul to make it simpler and a powerful set of incentives.

At this point, no one is volunteering for the job.

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