Bridgend County Borough Council may have to fork out over £1m to fund the repairs of over 100 homes that were fitted with poor insulation, it has emerged.
Internal and external insulation was fitted at 104 homes in Caerau in the Llynfi Valley between 2012 and 2013 as part of a number of schemes aimed at helping residents pay their fuel bills in some of Wales’ most deprived areas.
Evidence of poor workmanship and damage was found in the homes, according to an independent survey commissioned by the council last year.
A separate independent report has estimated that the local authority could face a repair bill in excess of £1m – that’s around £16,000 per property.
Three companies were hired to install the insulation through the government funding; one was awarded a £300,000 contract by Bridgend Council to install insulation in around 70 properties in Caerau.
The insulation works left some residents with issues such as algae in poorly fitted guttering and mould caused by inadequately sealed windows.
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 sub-contractors – which 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.
Shephard said the party or parties responsible for certain aspects of the scheme has been “a recipe for some confusion”.
According to Shephard, Bridgend Council wasn’t involved in the majority of the work.
Only “a very piecemeal solution” would be achieved if one body accepts responsibility alone instead of coming together to tackle the problem, he added.
Council officers previously met with the Welsh government to discuss the problem, with government officials concluding that it was ultimately the responsibility of the council.
Since then, 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 involved in the installation of the insulation, but said it would be difficult to get them to resolve the problem as they are no longer in operation.
‘Disappointing to say the least’
Commenting on the fiasco, Bridgend Council 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”.
Shephard added: “We were only involved in a small number of these properties.
“Obviously, things have gone wrong, and as further schemes have come forward, Welsh government is still asking local authorities to underwrite those schemes themselves.
“I think that comes with a health warning.”
Shephard said he acknowledges that the process may be “frustrating and potentially distressing” to the homeowners affected.
He said: “It’s not wholly a problem that the council can resolve. You have a large number of organisations involved but probably none of them have 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.”
Shephard said all the organisations involved should work together to come up with something “for the public good”.
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