The Welsh Government has confirmed a new £30m programme aimed at tackling fuel poverty will not be in place until after winter ends.

Julie James, Wales’ climate change minister, told the Senedd the new Warm Homes programme will go live on 1 April – a year later than expected.

She said advice will be provided by Energy Saving Trust while British Gas will install home improvements, and assurance services will be provided by Pennington Choices.

Ms James warned that Wales has some of the oldest and least energy efficient homes in Europe, with the cost-of-living crisis and energy prices pushing people into fuel poverty.

She said the scheme will prioritise low-carbon technologies and a low-income threshold for support will be introduced, rather than relying solely on means-tested benefits.

However, opposition MSs denounced the Welsh Government for failing to implement the programme with urgency in time for this winter.

Mabon ap Gwynfor, Plaid Cymru’s shadow housing minister, criticised delays, warning that cold and inefficient homes kill almost 300 people a year in Wales.

He said: “It's extremely concerning that the [Welsh] Government failed to implement the Warm Homes programme before the end of November despite the pledges made, leaving many vulnerable households in the cold.”

“I've noted the frightening statistics many times in the past, but almost 300 people die in Wales because of cold every year. This is shocking.

“Indeed, some 30 per cent of additional winter deaths are related to living in cold properties.”

The Dwyfor Meirionnydd MS said 31 per cent of people went without heating in the three months to January, with Citizens Advice reporting a record number of people seeking fuel vouchers.

During the statement on 12 March, Ms James stressed that the Nest programme, which offers free energy saving advice to households, has been running over this winter.

Ms James admitted she would have liked to have rolled out the new Warm Homes programme quicker as she blamed procurement hurdles.

Responding to calls for fuel poverty targets, which were echoed by Plaid Cymru’s Sioned Williams, Ms James suggested milestones could be revisited in 12 months.