May 10, 2021

Newyddion Cymru Ar-Lein : Wales News Online

Newyddion Lleol a Chenedlaethol Cymru – Local and National News for Wales

Councillor’s company awarded £300,000 contract by Bridgend Council leaves home owners facing huge repair bill through ‘poor workmanship’

HOMEOWNERS are calling on Bridgend Council to fix their properties after a company run by a councillor helped fit them with poor-quality insulation.

Evidence of “poor workmanship and damage” was found by an independent surveyor in the homes and the repair bill has been costed at more than £1 million.

Over 100 homes in Caerau in the Llynfi Valley were fitted with insulation almost a decade ago under three separate schemes to help residents pay their fuel bills in some of Wales’ poorest areas.

One of the companies which carried out works was Green Renewable Wales Ltd, run by Bridgend Labour councillor Phil White. Cllr White stepped down as a cabinet member in 2020. His company is no longer trading.

Bridgend Council gave the company a £300,000 contract to insulate 79 properties.

The council administered funding for works to be done on 25 other properties under the Welsh Government’s Arbed scheme; a different project.

Richie Humphries said the insulation fitted at his property by Green Renewable Wales in 2013 was an “eyesore” and his heating system is still “breaking down all the time”.

He said the pebbledash installed is now “completely black” and was refitted three times between 2013 to 2014 due to “substandard” work, which included the builders initially plastering over air vents.

“They had to hack it off and put it back on again, it was unbelievable. I couldn’t see anyone who knew what they were doing.

“The way they were talking to me it was the bee’s knees. Our heating bills would be halved, everything would be warm in here, the pebbledash would be a lot cleaner than what we already had on the house, which was nonsense.

“I’ve never experienced this house so cold this last couple of years.

“I’m sorry that we ever had it done and if I had the chance, I would have this all knocked off and my house put back to the way it was. They mis-sold everything to us.”

Mr Humphries said the insulation was “terrible from the word go” and one of the window sills fell off within a few hours of it being installed.

“I’m not a builder but I could see the problems, an ordinary layman could see the problems.

“The insulation they put in here was unbelievable. The pebbledash was all substandard, it was all bubbling and bellowing. It was a real eyesore. It was abysmal.”

He also said there is still damp on the inner and outer walls of his property and he has spent almost £2,500 fixing problems since the insulation was fitted.

According to him, the builders who carried out the works left heavy building materials on the flat roof of his bathroom for months, which eventually caused it to fall in.

“We were sitting here one night watching the telly and heard an almighty crash – the whole bathroom had come through. They didn’t care, they didn’t give a monkey.

“The whole bathroom was absolutely ruined and it cost me £1,500 of my own money to put that right.”

Mr Humphries said the council should take full responsibility for all of the home repairs.

“They should be answering for all the work that’s been carried out in the valley. It’s not fair to cherry-pick.

“Every house should be done and Bridgend Council should be made responsible for it. At the end of the day, they had a director on their board, it’s no good white-washing this, they can’t do that.”

Another resident, Lynne, said Green Renewable Wales fitted insulation at her property in 2013.

She began to notice problems around six months later and is still dealing with issues today.

Within the first six months of the insulation being installed, Lynne’s living room wall was “damp and crumbling” and she had to get the chimney breast re-plastered twice.

The walls on her home are currently damp inside and out and she’s had to have sockets refitted after they became “ruined” by the moisture.

Lynne’s daughter Danielle said when the windows were first refitted, they were “all loose”.

“It’s just problem after problem, the house is basically just falling apart. You can lift the windowsills and all the water runs under them. It’s just an absolute shambles basically.”

Lynne said she cannot afford the £16,000 worth of repairs, having already spent hundreds of pounds fixing many of the issues.

“I haven’t got the money to do it. All the walls are crumbling inside, it’s damp. The attic is black and soaking wet

“Until this, I’d never had damp in my life. We were told it was going to be energy efficient, it was going to be warm. It’s only since I’ve had this insulation that I’ve had damp. It’s the worst thing ever.”

As someone who suffers from asthma, she is worried about the possible impact of the damp on her health. She also said her heating bills are “costing a bomb”.

“The air’s not circulating, they blocked my house up. It’s cold in the summer and in the winter, it’s freezing in here.”

Lynne said she was recently told by the council that they would not be offering to fix her home because the insulation was fitted under a private scheme that the council was not a part of.

She believes the council should take full responsibility for fixing all 100 of the homes.

“I just think for the last 10 or so years they’ve been passing the buck constantly.”

An independent report estimates the repair costs to be around £16,000 per property.

During a meeting held in March, the council’s chief executive Mark Shephard said no one is currently willing to accept full responsibility for the failed works.

A report by Mr Shephard revealed none of the energy companies which carried out the works in 2012 and 2013 are still in business and they have all refused to accept liability for any poor workmanship.

If the council agrees to repair the 25 homes linked to the Arbed scheme, it is unlikely the remaining homes will be fixed as part of this because they were funded by separate schemes.

The Office of Gas and Electricity Markets confirmed the energy companies were indirectly involved in the insulation works but getting them to fix the issue would be difficult as they are no longer operating.

Keith Edwards, an independent councillor for Maesteg East, said Bridgend Council is “ultimately responsible” for the damage caused to all of the homes.

“These people are in a lot of distress, their homes are all they’ve got in life and they thought this scheme was going to greatly enhance their properties and it’s had an adverse effect.

“They are left in limbo because of maladministration of the scheme. There’s just no one who seems to want to take it up on their behalf.

“At the end of the day, the council has to take responsibility for what it’s done.”

A spokesperson for Bridgend Council said an investigation is underway into how Green Renewable Wales was contracted to carry out the work.

They said the local authority has referred the issue to the Public Service Ombudsman and its internal auditors are also investigating this while keeping Audit Wales “informed throughout”.

At present, the council will not comment further until the investigations are complete, the spokesperson added.

Councillor White refused to comment when approached by the local Democracy Service and said he could not comment when there was an ombudsman’s investigation.

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