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Eaga invites new tenders amid ‘closed shop’ claims

Eaga, the body responsible for administering the Warm Front (WF) Scheme, is embarking on a new tendering process, seeking installers wishing to register with the programme.

Rik Kendall, Eaga group media relations manager, said the move would address comments expressed in the letter pages of this magazine, specifically those accusing it of operating a closed shop (see Letters, page 6 and H&V News, October 18).

Eaga last sought installers via a similar procurement process in 2005.

“To address concerns in the letter about receiving WF work, installers wishing to register with the scheme may wish to know that a fresh tendering process has just been launched, and eaga would be pleased to hear from any contractors who wish to apply,” he wrote.

Mr Kendall said the selection criteria would follow the Official Journal of European Union tendering regulations, requiring contractors to demonstrate health and safety (H&S) compliance, Corgi membership and public liability and employers insurance.

A pre-qualification document would be issued on November 3 and the deadline for submissions is 12 noon on December 10, 2008. Installers wishing to register their interest should email installers@eaga.com.

However, Bob Towse, HVCA head of technical and safety, said WF needed to undergo a radical overhaul if it wanted to attract more HVCA members onto its list.

“The majority of our members have decided not to get involved with WF because they were considered to be difficult to deal with; petty when resolving defect issues; and slow in paying, which hurts a businesses’ cash flow,” he said.

“Contractors also take the view that, in general, WF work is about meeting the minimum standard possible to lift a household out of fuel poverty – it’s not about installing a decent energy-efficient heating system.”

Mr Towse added: “The scheme needs to be more dynamic in its processes if it wishes to attract more gas installation businesses. Many contractors believe WF does not add any value to their business activities, and they believe they can find better, more substantive work working directly for the customer.”

Clive Dickin, APHC chief executive officer (pictured), said: “This is a step forward in providing fairness [of access] to all WF installers. However, it’s not going to tackle the fundamental issues surrounding technical standards and competencies, and the fact that some installers are providing a better installation service to consumers than others.

“This also doesn’t tackle the issue of Building Regulations, which should become part of the mandatory criteria as some installers either forget or omit to include whether they are qualified to self-certify the work they carry out. The Association would like Eaga to introduce a rigorous and consistent recruitment and retention selection process that operates within the law.”

Rob Pinsent, chief executive of Anchor Staying Put, a home improvement agency which makes referrals to the scheme, said: “We have concerns around poor workmanship and the general lack of customer care.

“A bathroom adaptation for a customer on the Isle of Wight was badly installed, without any proper attention to even basic details such a fitting thermostatic control or flue.

“Radiator controls were also inaccessible as they had been fitted at floor level, and pipework around the doorway could easily have caused trips and falls. The quality of work was so poor that it could have easily have endangered the H&S of the customer.”