Council scraps partnership with Eon to deliver Green Homes Grant following highly critical report

Northumberland County Council is moving the delivery of the Government’s Green Homes Grant scheme in-house and ending its partnership with energy giant Eon – after a critical report laid a number of issues bare.

By James Robinson
Friday, 15th July 2022, 11:04 am

Speaking at a meeting of the local authority’s Corporate Services and Economic Growth overview and scrutiny committee, council leader Glen Sanderson said the company “has not been the right partner” after 137 projects were delivered from 345 applications.

In April, a Bedlington resident heavily criticised the scheme after the deadline was missed to complete the installation of solar panels to her home.

The council apologised to those people who had not had work completed, blaming “extremely tight time frames, Covid, and multiple supply chain issues across many key sectors”.

Coun Glen Sanderson, leader of Northumberland County Council.

The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy introduced a series of funding streams to improve energy efficiency of low income and low energy performance homes in a bid to reach net-zero targets and combat fuel poverty. The county council has successfully drawn in £11.8million across four rounds of funding.

Moving forward, the scheme will be delivered by in-house council teams rather than the previous arrangement with Eon.

A report presented to councillors at the meeting identified a number of issues that has seen the council move away from the partnership, while acknowledging the “turnkey” approach had “served a purpose.”

The report cited a “lack of control” over the project, as well as costs and value for money. The report claimed that the cost of solar PVs was two to three times the expected cost following research, with the discrepancy “not resolved”.

Residents were also left “frustrated” due to slow progress in the delivery of the project, resulting in some households missing out. The report also claimed that surveyors came to properties after flying from Bristol before returning the same day.

The report noted: “Residents were naturally concerned both about the endorsement of air travel for a climate change alleviation project and that their details were being held by contractors from outside of the area who were not directly employed by NCC or Eon.”

Of 345 applications, just 137 went through to delivery.

Coun Sanderson said: “Essentially, there is a significant demand for this work to be carried out in Northumberland. We have got funding from Government to do it.

“We have been very active in the ongoing work – however, we have found that the partner we have worked with has not been the right partner.

“I am pleased to say we will be working in-house in the future. I always prefer it because I find we normally do it better.”

Responding to the report, a spokeswoman for Eon said: “We have significant experience of working with councils to improve the UK’s housing stock and meet our net zero target. Right now, we are successfully working with a number of councils across the UK to deliver the Green Homes Grants scheme, already benefiting thousands of homes.

“Although our partnership with Northumberland County Council was unfortunately ended sooner than we had anticipated, we have successfully installed measures in hundreds of local people’s homes, helping lower their energy costs and become more sustainable.

“We continue to follow strict processes to help ensure we deliver such schemes as efficiently and effectively as possible for the benefit of UK communities.”