SDEN, the misfiring heating network business run by Sutton Council, has been accused of passing themselves off falsely as a member of government-backed quango, the Heat Trust. The very damaging allegation of serious misrepresentation has been made by… the Heat Trust.
The Heat Trust logo (tag line “Heat supply you can trust”) was even used in the SDEN business plan for 2019, which required official sign-off by Sutton Council officials Amanda “Mandy” Cherrington and Mary Morrissey.
The actions of SDEN and Sutton Council have been described as “unbelievable”, with misled residents accusing them of fraud.
Private Eye magazine this month followed up previous Inside Sutton reports about how the 400 homes New Mill Quarter in Hackbridge have endured 13 heating and hot water outages thanks to the unreliable heating system provided by Sutton Decentralised Energy Network Ltd.
The outage tally has now reached 19, and Sutton and SDEN have still not managed to link New Mill Quarter to what was supposed to be its “24/7 reliable” source of heating, the polluting Viridor incinerator at Beddington.
The anger of the NMQ residents has not been assuaged by the measly offer of just £54 each as compensation from their homes’ builders, Barratts. But that anger now seems likely to turn into fury as they have discovered that despite SDEN using the Heat Trust’s logo on its publicity, the Sutton Council-owned company has never been a member of the Trust.
The Heat Trust says, “We make sure customers enjoy the benefits of heating systems fit for the future by: Applying strict customer service standards to heat suppliers, similar to those for traditional gas and electricity suppliers; Providing access to an independent dispute resolution service through the Energy Ombudsman; Working with suppliers to promote best practice, innovation and continuous improvement in customer service.”
All of which would appear to offer a solution to the miseries endured in the new homes of New Mill Quarter by long-suffering customers of SDEN.
But it turns out that despite SDEN plastering their publicity materials with the Heat Trust logo, they have never been accepted as members.
A letter from a Heat Trust official to the New Mill Quarter’s residents’ association this month has confirmed that Sutton Council-owned SDEN has been conducting a form of fraud for the past couple of years, passing themselves off as a recognised and reputable member of the national trade body.
In the Heat Trust letter, which has been seen by Inside Sutton, they said, “I can confirm that Sutton Decentralised Energy Network is not registered with Heat Trust yet…
“We became aware of a potentially misleading use of the Heat Trust logo last year,” they add, saying that they “are pleased to see” that SDEN’s most recent business plan is a Heat Trust free zone.
SDEN’s tricks don’t stop there, according to the Heat Trust letter.
SDEN had been referring its over-charged customers to a heat cost calculator provided by the Trust, in its efforts to try to justify its pricing system. They were never entitled to do so.
“Our Heat Cost Calculator,” the Trust said, “is intended for customers of heat networks use only, and should not be used for commercial decisions.”
The Heat Trust also said that they “… encourage all heat networks to register with us in the run-up to statutory regulation being introduced in a couple of years’ time”.
Today, Sheldon Vestey, the chair of the NMQ Residents’ Association, said, “Documents and statements put out by SDEN and the Liberal Democrat council have been proved wrong time and time again.
“The fact that a private company and the council have purposefully misused branding of an independent body to garner customer trust is unbelievable.
“When pressed on this, Councillor Jayne McCoy lied directly to councillors and the public, stating that what they were doing was fine.
“I have lodged a formal complaint with the Council and expect to see this swiftly investigated as it is now clearly a case of wilful fraud in which some Liberal Democrat councillors are complicit and are now trying to hide.”
Read more: MP Colburn in ‘angry’ row with Sutton over faulty heat network
Read more: Residents afraid of ‘risk to life’ from flats’ heating system
Read more: SDEN: A timeline of council bungling and sky-high fuel prices
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