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Council struggles to resolve failed insulation project as contractors reject responsibility

BRIDGEND Council is working to resolve a failed energy project which saw poor insulation works carried out on more than 100 homes.

Internal and external insulation was fitted at 104 homes in Caerau, Bridgend between 2012 and 2013 as part of schemes aimed at helping residents pay their fuel bills in some of Wales’ poorest areas.

Evidence of “poor workmanship and damage” was found in the homes, according to an independent survey commissioned by the council last year.

However, no authority has yet come forward and taken responsibility for the scheme, leaving residents with issues such as algae in poorly-fitted guttering and damp and mould caused by poorly-sealed windows.

Three companies have been identified as those which installed insulation in Caerau via government schemes.

One of them was Green Renewable Wales Ltd, run by Bridgend Labour councillor Phil White.

The company was awarded a £300,000 contract by Bridgend Council to install insulation at around 70 properties in Caerau.

An independent report estimates the council could face a repair bill in excess of £1 million, at £16,000 per property.

Bridgend Council administered funding for insulation works to be completed on 25 properties under the Welsh Government’s Arbed scheme.

Work on 79 other properties was promoted and carried out independently by Green Renewable Wales Ltd and subcontractors. This was paid for by a UK Government scheme aimed at tackling fuel poverty.

The council’s chief executive Mark Shephard said none of the parties involved, including the council, are currently willing to accept full responsibility for the failed works.

He said if the council was to oversee repair works on the 25 homes linked to the Arbed scheme, the remaining homes would not be fixed as part of this as they were funded by separate schemes.

Pinpointing exactly who was responsible for certain aspects of the scheme has been a “recipe for some confusion”, he said.

Mr Shephard said Bridgend Council “wasn’t involved in the majority of the work” and only “a very piecemeal solution” would be achieved if one body accepts responsibility alone instead of coming together to tackle the problem.

Council officers previously met with the Welsh Government to discuss the problem, with government officials believing it was the council’s responsibility.

Since then, Mr Shephard said the Welsh Government has agreed to approach the UK Government about the issue.

The Office of Gas and Electricity Markets confirmed the energy companies were indirectly involved in the work they completed but it would be difficult to get them to resolve the problem as they are no longer in operation.

Cabinet member for communities Richard Young said: “While not totally unexpected, I think that the responses from the energy companies themselves are disappointing, to say the least.”

He also said the Welsh Government’s response to the situation is “equally disappointing when you consider this was a WG scheme”.

“We were only involved in a small number of these properties.

Obviously, things have gone wrong and as further schemes have come forward, the Welsh Government is still asking local authorities to underwrite those schemes themselves. I think that comes with a health warning.”

Mr Shephard said he understands the process may be “frustrating and potentially distressing” to the homeowners affected.

All of the energy companies which installed the insulation a decade ago are no longer in business and refuse to accept liability for any poor workmanship, according to a report by Mr Shephard.

“It’s not wholly a problem that the council can resolve,” he said. “You have a large number of organisations involved but probably none of them has any direct liability.

“The real issue here is of course that ordinarily, we would, and the householder would approach the contractor and subcontractors to remedy and redress any poor workmanship.

“I’m very keen to try and pull everyone in together so that there’s redress for all of the residents.”

Mr Shephard said “all of the organisations” who were involved should “work together to come up with something for the public good”.

He said more work needs to be carried out before a clear solution can be reached.

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