Minutes from Warmfront Strategy Meeting – th October 2008 @ 10:30 a.m. Monday 20
Paul Maplethorpe Chair & Rotherham MBC
Kathy Alcock South East HECA Chair
Harry Fitch West Midlands Representative
Alan Jones ESTAC NE
Peter Daley Eaga
Shane Conway Northampton Borough Council
Erik Coates Eaga
Ros Baptiste Energy Solutions
Andy Stephenson Durham/Chester-le-Street Council
Sean Johnson North Kesteven District Council
Darsh Chauhan UK HECA/Leicester City Council
Helen Atkins UK HECA Secretariat
David Colbourne Sefton Council
Denise Marsdon East Midlands Chair
Welcome and Introductions
PM chaired the meeting and asked members to introduce themselves.
Ref: point 9 - PM asked if the annual report sheets had been amended to include existing loft insulation thicknesses. PD wasn’t sure and will check with Matt. EK didn’t foresee a problem included this
information. Action: PD
Ref: point 11 – PM asked EK to clarify warranty issues of additional works, those that fall outside the WF grant. Additional works are excluded from the usual warranty and the installer must declare any work by listing what has been done and the cost of the work carries out.
There were no matters arising, minutes were signed off as a true record.
1. Government’s funding package announcement
How will the additional money be allocated/spent within WF Scheme?
WF has been allocated a further ?74M over two years, of which ?50M will be allocated for the current year and ?24M for the following year. There is a fall in next year’s funding from ?354M to ?279M. As funding for the scheme was cut last year, this year’s increase covers the difference and the scheme will
run as business as usual. However, due to economic factors and governments funding announcement there has been unprecedented demand for the service - between 60-70,000 referrals received in
August, an additional 10,000 for a usually slow month – so marketing has been suspended for a few
months to balance the load and assess figures. 10,000 customers are currently awaiting a survey.
HA asked whether a cut off point would be introduced, where customers would be turned away, if demand continued to increase at current rates and RS asked if increases would affect timelines. Customers would not be turned away as new enquires are already in the system, but new referrals wouldn’t actively be sought. If necessary the scheme would look at prioritising referrals e.g. most
vulnerable being a priority. Referring insulation measures to CERT is also being used. Timelines wouldn’t therefore be affected.
PD will provide a breakdown of grant data at the beginning of November region by region due to the quantity of data involved, and will include timelines within LA area. Action: PD
Will the grant maxima be increased as a result (of the additional funding)?
The grant maxima is based on 2005 figures and hasn’t increased unlike other costs, such as labour costs. Eaga understands the current level it is not sufficient to cover all aspects and is preparing a report to Government this month to propose an increase, which will be submitted for the new financial
Department for Energy and Climate Change – The WF function has been moved to the new
department, but it’s unclear at this stage what functions and staff from the current departments (BERR and Defra) will be moved over. The Minister is currently being briefed and contacts will be announced shortly.
EC was asked to clarify the referral of loft insulation to CERT. Virgin lofts or where insulation is below 4 inches and WF can trade with CERTs. this funding is then fed back into the WF scheme. Cavity wall
insulation is not usually traded.
Post meeting note to clarify trading of insulation:
There appears to be some confusion about from the differences in trading pre 2005 (Warm Front 1) and since June 2005 (Warm Front 2)
Prior to June 2005 although we did trade measures with utility companies from their EEC commitments
this traded funding went back into a central funding source and not back into the individual clients account, so essentially insulation work DID come off the clients Warm Front funding account
Since June 2005 and under CERT we are able to trade CERT fundable insulation works and this DOES
directly benefit the client as there is no central funding pot. We use CERT trading to directly fund the works being carried out and to leave the clients Warm Front account un-affected by the CERT funded
This is why we have examples where a client has heating works in 2008 and has a client contribution which shows previous measures of say cavity wall insulation from 2002.
At this time the client did have the insulation taken from their Warm Front account.
Since June 2005 that has changed.
If it's CERT fundable we trade the works and the clients Warm Front account is not affected
This matches the FAQ document and explanation within that document
SC continued by asking whether loft top ups are still carried out and what was the limit. Top ups are still being carried out but heating is always prioritised over insulation. EC thought the limit was 70mm (4”), but will check. Action: EC
AS raised issue with WF referring loft insulation as it caused ethical problems for LAs as schemes were conflicting. PD hopes to work on local based schemes.
2. Changes within Eaga
What is the current position with Eaga? Who are the (national and regional) contacts and how are they
PD will send HA an up-to-date copy of the WF contacts list. Action: PD
Eaga has won the digital switchover contract so some network staff have been seconded for six weeks, therefore contacts within the region have been reduced. This may not have been fully explained to LAs
and confusion has arisen within some regions.
Funding affects staffing levels, so network team roles are funded by using staff skills else where within the company (Eaga). Additionally there are some regions that have fewer staff than usual due to vacant
positions but people are now being recruited and it’s anticipated that network staff will be up to full capacity (21) by the end of the year.
The knock on effect of this is that regional aspects of WF have been lost; PD and EC are aware of the
problem and are working to improve it with better reporting mechanisms.
The Director of Warmfront, Adrian Hull has moved on from Eaga and has been replaced by Hayley
Are there any implications with the managing arm of Scottish Power?
The Scottish and Southern contracts sit outside WF and have no effect on running of the scheme.
3. LAAs and NI187
Proposed to establish delivery partnerships at county level where NI187 has been designated in the
Local Area Agreement?
PD and EC are happy to build partnerships within LAAs. LAs to discuss options with PD on a regional basis. Action: ALL
When HECA is repealed, will WF still have an obligation to provide LAs with annual reporting
information (and at other times by one off requests) and is there likely to be problems with Eaga releasing WF data to LAs for reporting?
After the repeal of HECA, PD does not anticipate any changes in reporting mechanisms and doesn’t
foresee any problems in releasing data. The annual report will remain the same, but PM will look at the data required by LAs for NI187 and advise PD if its different and what’s required. Action: PM
PD reiterated that he receives lots of ad hoc data requests from LA officers - additional to the usual
monthly data - and because of this isn’t able to fulfil all requests.
4. Renewable heating systems
Propose the inclusion of renewable specification as a replacement to oil given the current cost of oil
and volatile pricing
EC confirmed that air source heat pumps would be a full heating measure available from April following the successful pilot by NEA. Additionally, a trial of 125 solar systems is being carried out now.
No particular model of ASHP is being used; a range of models will be available best matched to a particular property. It’s not confirmed which budget ASHP will come out of yet, but most likely to be ?4k (oil heating). They won’t be pushed before conventional measures where gas is available so would
best suit hard to treat properties. A survey will be carried out to establish feasibility and the final decision will lie with the customer. AS raised an issue with a previous trial where the ASHP stopped in very cold weather and AJ suggested longer period of support be applied and a FAQs document be developed for this system, including list of suitable contractors.
CS said clear and concise information was required and he was also aware of problems with the grid supply where multiple systems are installed within close proximity of each other. He wasn’t sure of the technical reasoning and will check. Action: EC
Post meeting note from PD to clarify exactly details about ASHP:
The proposal to add these as an approved heating source within Warm Front is with DECC but will
need parliamentary approval as all such changes to the scheme require. I understand the next opportunity to present this for approval to the house is in April and the process from then can be 28days plus for approval.
IF approval is given we will be able to confirm and announce this to stakeholders at that time.
To clarify the intention of adding this heating measure would be for smaller properties which are off the gas network. We would provide more detail regarding the decision criteria that we will use at time the announcement is made.
So we will keep you posted after April on this
KA requested that LAs be notified before they’re made available, so they can include renewables in their excess payment/HHSRS policies. Action: PD
PD thought eventually the maximum number of ASHP installations would be similar to oil fired systems, currently around 2,500 per year.
WF are carrying out random pre-installation checks to ensure that the measures proposed by the
contractors are appropriate.
5. Integration with CERT schemes
Is the WF quality criterion likely to expend to that of CERT?
WF criteria is not going to extend as a result of CERT. Works done under WF1 are taken off the grant value for WF2.
If an account with WF is opened and its insulation only and this is passed to CERT, if the same person comes back later for C/H the CERT funding won’t be counted against the original WF grant.
6. Priority of measures (e.g. CH before insulation)
When a full grant with all measures is applied for why is CH always first and insulation must wait until CH has taken place?
This is the best use of the grant as heating and hot water are seen as priority measures hence they are done first. There is also the opportunity for insulation to be traded in CERT.
LAs with excess payment funds available, PD can send a list of clients who require top ups to produce whole house measures (HHSRS). Firstly LAs should send numbers and then the logistics can be sorted out afterwards. Action: ALL/PD
7. Warmfront advertising strategy
PD mentioned that a clients guide for measures is being printed and will also be available on PDF. PD to forward a copy to PM for distribution. Action: PD
Wording on the website is misleading and may cause confusion.
PM and PD have looked at the website and cannot see what this question is in reference to. PM to check and provide details to PD for clarification.
Advertising has decreased/stopped in some areas, why?
As mentioned earlier (Point 1), a two-month stop on advertising or seeking referrals has been put in
place due to the unprecedented demand seen in the last few months. This doesn’t affect advertising that is already ‘in the system’, which is still seeping through. This may have caused confusion to LAs
who’ve heard advertising has stopped but are still seeing ads.
Quantities of leaflets are very low at the moment and are being re-printed in small quantities to avoid
KA asked if WF would be participating in council tax mail outs next year as details are being prepared in councils now. PD was unable to confirm and will be better placed to discuss after demand levels have been assessed in Jan/Feb 2009. If demand is similar to now, then WF probably won’t participate
or could target low take up areas only. Action: PD
8. Appropriate rules for heating installations in private landlord properties
Why are the rules different for boiler replacements and new heating installations in private rented
To clarify, PD reiterated that if there is no heating and the client is eligible, WF will provide and install a new heating system. If there is already a heating system in place and it breaks down WF do not get involved, as it is the landlords duty to repair. Unless a tenancy agreement states it is the tenant that
maintains the boiler, it is the landlord’s obligation. Usually, in most agreements it’s the landlords responsibly, but if not a copy of the tenancy agreement can be sent to WF to show otherwise.
Boiler replacements are on a like for like basis only and for technical (or safety) reasons will another type be installed. New systems are guaranteed for two years.
Part buy (or partial ownership) properties, which are becoming increasingly more available, are eligible
for WF grants.
It is illegal for landlords to increase rent to cover any costs of measures. Landlords can claim the tax back only if work is carried out privately, but under WF this is not allowed as it’s a grant. This would be
for HMRC to investigate; WF/LAs do not police or get involved. Additionally, there are increasing problems with benefit fraud and again, WF cannot get involved in individual cases. It is a fraudulent activity and the DWP/Police would need to be notified.
9. CEEF Projects – data requests
LAs having problems obtaining WF data for CEEF projects due to data protection, is this a national problem or just Leeds Council?
There are no limits to the number of reports produced and data protection shouldn’t be a problem. This
question may have arisen because Eaga and WF don’t pass on (data protected) information to each other, so this may be why data hasn’t been released. PD wasn’t sure what the question was in reference to and will contact Leeds to clarify and include in the minutes as a post-meeting note.
10. Reduce excess payments
Has there been any development on identifying and reducing excess payments?
Although labour costs have increased, material costs have reduced and WF are hoping to regulate the
cost of materials
There are an increasing number of cases were excessive labour costs have been identified?
WF are hoping for more harmonised prices as they will publish a tender for installers in November. Installers will be invited to tender in December and appointments will be made in March 2009 to begin
in June 2009. The contracts will be for 1 year with a possibility of 3-year extension. Of the 7-8,000
installers expected to put in a tender submission, only 100 of these will be successful.
Harmonising prices will consist of obtaining the cheapest price per area by looking a four neighbouring regions to obtain the cheapest price.
Can WF try to engage more locally based contractors?
Contracts are issued by tender, so it is up to the (tendering) company to decide whether it’s feasible to
spend money on petrol to win contracts in other areas. Smaller companies, which are generally more local, are encouraged to tender but the H&S bond of ?25k is unobtainable for some businesses. Also, smaller companies don’t have the capacity to fulfil demand in one area. However, it is within the WF contract if companies want to sub contract work.
PD said it should be noted that mileage is not included in labour costs and any contractor including this on invoices should be reported to him.
11. Earth bonding procedures
Inspections have identified that earth bonding is being omitted by WF installers. Could you clarify what WF’s policy is for earth bonding for heating installations?
The current level of inspections is visual only and EC is looking at training requirements and whether to extend inspections to cover internal checks too. Earth bonding therefore wouldn’t be checked and he was very concerned that earth bonding wasn’t being carried out, as it’s such a serious matter. He will
investigate cases and asked that if anything else like this had been found to pass on details to him. PD added that Jim McVie is the technical contact for LAs to report any problems:
Updates from Eaga
The National Audit Office Value for Money review is expected to be released shortly. The two reports by White Young Green on CH Costs and Charges and Oil and Gas Price Review can be found at:
Any Other Business
1) The case study from Alan Lupton was provided, but due to the sensitive nature will be looked at
2) RB enquired if there was a CAP 1 hazards lists. The relevant authorities hold the lists.
3) SJ mentioned that the web portal data was out-of-date and asked if it could be maintained. PD
responded by saying that it was updated regularly, but cases where the measures have been
installed but there are outstanding issues such as payment will show up as not finished. PD will
forward a list of codes. Action: PD
4) KA asked EC to clarify on a point he’d made earlier, which related to conflicting message that
the cost of steel and labour costs has increased whilst the cost of installations will be reduced.
The costs of boilers are brought at a fixed cost, but steel and copper prices fluctuate. There are
also other costs to consider such as new gas connections, which have risen up to ?700 and
can vary depending on how much a LA charges for digging up roads.
5) KA asked for clarity on procedures for installers quoting for additional work. She had come
across a case where an oil replacement quote was received and TRV weren’t included. The
council were happy to pay the additional cost to make it a whole house measure, however the
installer wouldn’t re-quote as he said it would need to go back to WF and the process would
start from the beginning again. EC said that the installer would need to order more parts but
this could be done without having to start the process again. KA to send details to EC and he’ll
investigate with the installer. In cases like this, in the first instance LAs should used the
stakeholder email address: StakeHolders.Enquiries@eaga.com Action: KA/PD
Date of next meeting
Proposed date and venue to be circulated shortly.