Monday, 16 February 2009

Warm Front branded unfit for purpose

Warm Front, the Government's flagship fuel poverty scheme, has come under attack for squandering public money, with contractors accused of charging high prices for poor standards of workmanship.

Times Money has been inundated with complaints about the scheme, which gives grants of up to £2,700 to make the most vulnerable households energy-efficient. Readers have reported paying more than £3,000 in top-up fees - required when the cost exceeds the maximum grant - for boilers that do not work.

Warm Front was also criticised last week in a National Audit Office (NAO) report for “inefficient targeting of resources”.

Mervyn Kohler, of Help the Aged, says: “We are receiving thousands of complaints about Warm Front. Not only are customers being let down, but there also appears to be little accountability over how public money is spent. The organisation is unfit for purpose in its current form.”
The Government has poured almost £2.4 billion into Warm Front to help the 5.4 million households in fuel poverty, where one tenth or more of income goes on fuel bills. It relies on a contractor, eaga, to administer the scheme and manage the 139 sub-contractors responsible for installing heating and insulation systems.

But many customers complain that they have to agree to eaga's choice of supplier and equipment to obtain the grant, even if the boiler selected is unsuitable or the work appears to be overpriced. Many also say that complaints about unsatisfactory work can take months to resolve.

Times Money reader Malcolm Field, 56, applied to Warm Front for a new boiler on behalf of his 80-year-old mother. The total cost was £3,300, so his mother was asked to pay a top-up fee of £600. Mr Field, who lives in Chertsey, Surrey, says: “The contractor took more than a week to fit the boiler and its work was appalling. We called it out six times because the system failed. Eventually, 18 months later, a new pump was fitted and it now seems to work. My brother was a plumber and says that the work should not have come to more than £1,500. These contractors are lining their pockets with the Government's and pensioners' money.”
full article

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