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Local plumbers challenge council

 
Created on 13/04/2019 @ 09:46
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The ‘Powys Pound’ could take a hit, if an energy scheme administered by Powys County Council is not changed.

Powys Plumbing Group (PPG) has met with PCC’s internal auditors SWAP to discuss the suspected “widespread fraud” with the Eco2 boiler grant scheme.

They believe that the next grant scheme, Eco3, could be even worse and have now referred a complaint on Eco2 to energy regulators, Ofgem.

Funded by energy companies, to qualify for the scheme, households should have an income of less than £21,000. But PPG claims that households with an income of more than £60,000 can receive help which is impacting local plumbers.

They believe PCC should be checking that households signed up by agents for the scheme, should be eligible before allowing work to go ahead.

Somerset based Internal Auditors, SWAP – have been brought in by PCC to investigate the allegations of fraud with Eco2.

A spokesman for PPG said: “We met the internal auditors and we were asked to provide individual examples. But declined to do so as this would have got individual householders into trouble or scapegoat people when there are hundreds.

“PCC/SWAP should be able to check the eligibility as the scheme is for people in band F or G rated properties certainly not better than E.”

PPG believes the problem lies in the way the scheme is set up to make money for PCC rather than address the issue of energy poverty.

The PPG spokesman added: “We have made complaints to Ofgem as it clearly states in the advice on running this scheme that the authority is supposed to check on applicants’ eligibility.

“The council talks a lot about the Powys Pound and spending more with local companies. But if Eco3 goes ahead in the same form as Eco2, many of us will go out of business.”

A spokeswoman for Ofgem said: “As a matter of course we do not confirm or deny we have received information from any source in relation to an organisation. Furthermore, we do not comment on any investigation we may be conducting.”

“However, we have a zero tolerance approach to fraud on our schemes (including ECO) and take any allegations of fraud seriously.”

A spokesman for PCC said: “SWAP has been commissioned to look into this matter and are due to report back their findings. Work is still ongoing and we will update as soon as there is something new.”

In January, the Health, Care and Housing Scrutiny Committee was due to look at “proposition for the adoption of Eco3, the successor to Eco2, and provide recommendations to the Cabinet”.

But councillors who had received the letter decided to defer the issue and asked for Eco3’s implementation to be postponed until an investigation had finished.

A report on the findings of the report and going ahead with Eco3 is expected to go to Cabinet and probably a Scrutiny Committee before it can be implemented.

By Elgan Hearn, Local Democracy Reporter 

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