Mark Andrews on Saturday: Student woes, green homes gimmick, and soppy Meghan and Harry

Read the latest column from Mark Andrews.

Soppy – Harry and Meghan
Soppy – Harry and Meghan

University students in the UK have spent nearly £1 billion on accommodation left empty due to coronavirus restrictions, according to new figures.

That's on top of those living under virtual house arrest, with security guards allowing only food parcels past the gates. And of course, there was the student this month fined £10,000 for hosting an illicit birthday party, which I suppose is small-fry when you take into account what they pay for online lectures.

It seems strange that just a few months ago youngsters were demonstrating because the exams algorithm had denied them places at university. They should have counted themselves lucky.

The Green Homes Grant, announced in a blaze of publicity alongside the now-infamous Eat Out To Help Out scheme last summer, has been quietly dropped after a rather pathetic take up.

At the time, Dishy Rishi promised grants of up to £5,000 for every household, regardless of income, towards improvements such as double glazing or energy-efficient heating. But since the scheme was announced in September, only 904 out of 27.8 million households across the UK have actually received payments.

Rishi Sunak – green homes gimmick

As someone who was at the time in the market for both new windows and a new boiler, I think I know why.

Basically, to get a £2,500 contribution towards windows, you had to spend £833 on insulation you probably didn't need or want. Throw in the inevitable mark-up the 'approved' suppliers will put on the bill, and it really wasn't worth the bother. So instead I negotiated a good price with a local supplier, and paid for the windows in full. Which, I suspect is what most people did, explaining why the scheme was such a flop.

As for my ancient, horribly inefficient gas boiler, I'm afraid it is still spluttering on. Because as long politicians keep making ominous noises about phasing out gas central heating, I'm loath to shell out thousands on something that might be obsolete in 10 years' time.

If the Government wants people to make their homes more energy efficient, it would do better by offering clear guidance about its long-term plans than coming up with headline-grabbing gimmicks such as the Green Homes Grant.

It's been quite a week for Meghan and Harry Markle. Three days after winning her privacy case against the Mail on Sunday, Meghan announced she was up the duff by issuing a soppy black-and-white photo of her lying next to a barefoot Harry beneath a 'tree of fertility'. Two days after that, it was revealed that the shy, retiring couple would be 'telling all' to Oprah Winfrey.

They haven't got the hang of this privacy lark, have they?

What they really need is a trusted advisor to spell out a few home truths. That you can be a member of the Royal Family, with the trappings and responsibilities that go with it, or you can be a woke warrior spouting off self-indulgent, gobbledegook. That you can be a private individual, keeping your head down and earning a crust in an office or factory, or you can be a Z-list sleb appearing on tacky chat shows and subject to media scrutiny. But you can't pick and choose.

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