I have a current surgery case which worries me a lot. A pensioner told me how she needed a gas boiler repair. British Gas came in September and told her the boiler needed replacing, and stopped her from using the old one any more.
She applied to Warm Front for a grant to help with the replacement cost, as she is on a low income. There was no favourable response for many weeks. Desperate to keep warm, she decided to invite British Gas back. They replaced her boiler and helped her arrange a loan at 26% APR to pay for it.
Subsequently she says Warm Front offered her another contractor to replace the boiler with additional work for a higher sum than Britsh Gas had charged for replacing the boiler, along with a grant for some of the cost. The grant I believe would have covered the BG price for boiler replacement.
I mention this before I have responses from the others involved to hear their side of the story because I learn that there have been a number of problems with Warm Front. I am not releasing name and address as I prefer to sort these problems out without publicity, and do not usually recommend putting my constituents through the media mill. Nor can I give a full view on this case until I know what the others say.
However, I do feel this lady has been very badly served.The elderly on low incomes are in especial need of help to keep themselves warm during the winter. This is I thought one of the main aims of the scheme. Boilers do not last for ever, and modern boilers should be a lot more fuel efficient than older ones. Why can’t they process applications more quickly? Do they go to the right contractors in each location to get the best prices for the work? How do they decide how much work needs doing? Do they not see that people entitled to grants need them in time to keep warm?
I can understand that there is room for professional disagreement about how much work is required, but what kind of check is there on the specification? And in an age of semi nationalised banks, are high rates of interest the best we can do for people who need to borrow modest sums for the basics?
I am interested in other people’s experiences of safety work requirements, and borrowing costs in cases like this, as well as in Warm Front’s efficiency.
About John Redwood
John Redwood won a free place at Kent College, Canterbury, He graduated from Magdalen College Oxford, has a DPhil and is a fellow of All Souls College. A businessman by background, he has been a director of NM Rothschild merchant bank and chairman of a quoted industrial PLC.
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