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DECC under fire for Warm Front

A report by the Public Accounts Committee on Warm Front has published a series of photos showing the visual impact of leaving pipes exposed following work financed under the scheme.

Warm front pipe workWarm Front funding only covers installations and does not cover the cost of boxing in new pipework, but the report noted: “The scheme only funds work on installation measures. These can leave customers with exposed pipe work and wires, which many consider unsightly.

'Scheme literature sent to customers sets out the specifications of completed work. eaga plc acknowledges, however, that a third of their customers are unable to read or write and even where a customer understands the extent of the work, they may not be able to fund, for example, the boxing in of pipes, which would leave living space in a more attractive state.”

Warm front pipework2A letter from a member of the public also published in the report said: “We were very pleased to have the central heating installed, but I must say I was disappointed with the finished look. Have tried to make less obtrusive by painting but still unsightly.”

The report concluded: “Many customers are happy with the improvements to their heating systems but are unhappy at the state in which their property may be left after the work.

'The scheme does not cover the cost of making good, for example, damaged plasterwork and boxing in of pipes.

'The Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) and eaga plc should test alternative methods to clarify customers’ understanding of the work which will be funded, for example by using computer generated images of how the property will look once work is complete.

'The Department should estimate the impact of including such works within the Scheme where they can be accommodated within the grant maxima, and consider whether better targeting of the Scheme, as suggested above, might allow funding of such work to be included where appropriate.”

Warm front pipeworkOther issues the committee demanded action on from the Department of Energy and Climate Change included:

• A lack of clarity over whether the Warm Front scheme is primarily aimed at improving the energy efficiency of homes or at reducing fuel poverty is damaging the effectiveness of the scheme.

• Nearly 75 per cent of households assisted by the scheme are not in fuel poverty, and the Scheme is only available to 35 per cent of households most likely to be ‘fuel poor’.

• Data suggests 28 per cent of those in fuel poverty live in rural areas but only 15 per cent of households assisted were from such areas.

warm front pipework4• One In four applicants were required in 2007-08  to contribute to the works undertaken through the scheme because the cost was above the maximum limit and more than 6,000 households - possibly those most in need of assistance - withdrew their applications.

• DECC should determine whether the specifications for heating measures can be made more flexible in order to reduce costs without undermining reliability, safety and efficiency, and whether there is an opportunity to obtain efficiencies in labour and other costs.

• DECC should determine the feasibility of allowing customers who are required to make a contribution to the work, the scope to obtain quotations from accredited companies in their area as a check on the prices quoted by the scheme’s contractors.

The Public Accounts Committee also requested details on the cost of the boilers used in the Warm Front scheme. The official response from the Department of Energy and Climate Change stated:
'The Ideal boilers selected for the scheme by Defra all met stringent performance criteria in terms of being highly efficient and reliable at the tender stage.
'Additionally, the boilers all accepted by the Grant Aided heating Installers Network, GAIN, as being the most reliable boilers in the market at that time.
'The purchase of boilers for use on the Scheme is made from Wolseley plc and no profit is made by eaga in their procurement.
'The two most common boilers installed under the Scheme are the Ideal ISAR 24HE Condensing Combi and the Ideal ISAR 30 HE Condensing Combi.
'A comparison of the price of these boilers has shown that:
* The prices obtained under the Scheme are 5 per cent (for ISAR 24HE) and 8 per cent(for ISAR 30HE) cheaper than the average price for the next three comparable boilers manufactured by Worcester, Baxi and Vallant
* The prices obtained under the Scheme are £447 (for ISAR 24HE) and £518 (for ISAR 30HE) which is significantly cheaper than the trade list prices for these boilers.'

To see the report in full click here.