Sutton heat network director quits as fraud inquiry begins

After five years as ‘interim’ MD, Cherrington departs SDEN with less than one month’s notice, as unfortunate customers continue to endure power outages

Amanda Cherrington has resigned as the managing director of Sutton’s Council’s controversial SDEN heat network, just weeks after officials bowed to mounting pressure and agreed to an independent investigation into the dodgy claims and ropey performance of the loss-making company.

All change: Sutton Council has had to spin the positives about Cherrington’s abrupt resignation

In July, a council meeting heard how the business plan of Sutton Decentralised Energy Network Ltd was “dishonest at best, fraudulent at worst”.

SDEN was established by Sutton’s LibDem-controlled council to provide “green” cover to the planning application for the Beddington Lane waste incinerator, promising to use the energy from burned rubbish to supply hot water and heating for nearby homes and businesses.

Five years later, and despite millions being spent on extensive pipe networks, SDEN has yet to deliver any incinerator-generated heat. Its exaggerated claims over its business model and the number of customers it serves, plus an appalling service record for the unfortunate residents of a Barratts housing development in Hackbridge, forced the company’s owners, Sutton Council, to agree to an independent inquiry last month.

Late yesterday afternoon, in a letter to councillors, an official confirmed Cherrington’s abrupt departure as managing director, a position she has held for five years.

The council email was sent 11 days after Cherrington’s resignation date, August 1. The letter was sent more than 24 hours after concerned residents had discovered Cherrington’s departure in official records at Companies House.

Elected councillors who sit on Sutton’s shareholdings board had been given no advance notification of Cherrington’s intention to stand down before they were alerted to the move by residents. And according to the letter from Simon Latham (Sutton’s “interim strategic director, environment, housing and neighbourhoods), Cherrington gave up her MD status with less than one month’s notice.

The letter appears to confirm that Cherrington’s decision to resign was discussed by the SDEN board after a council meeting which agreed to hold an independent investigation into the running of the company.

‘Exceptional’: Amanda Cherrington

Cherrington, 63, remains a senior council employee.

Among her remaining responsibilities is the unironically named Successful Sutton, the town centre’s business improvement district, an organisation so poorly managed that it has not even managed to keep up to date with its website domain registration.

In his letter, Latham claimed that Cherrington’s decision to resign followed the appointment of an operations manager in May on more than £80,000 per year, and that she had, in any case, only ever been an “interim” managing director. For FIVE YEARS.

It described her time in charge of the spluttering heat provider as “exceptional” – possibly a reference to the exceptional 20-plus power outages suffered in just over a year by the unfortunate residents of New Mill Quarter, who remain SDEN’s only customers.

“Following the appointment of David McIntyre as SDEN Operational Manager on a full-time basis at the beginning of May 2021, with responsibility for all aspects of SDEN’s operations and service delivery, the SDEN board of directors accepted the resignation as Managing Director of Amanda Cherrington at its meeting in July, to take effect at the beginning of August,” Latham wrote in the council’s rushed response.

“In accepting her resignation, the board thanked Ms Cherrington for her exceptional work for the company.

“The board and the council are satisfied that, with the appointment of Mr Mcintyre, the company now has put in place the capacity to enable Ms Cherrington to focus upon her substantive role as head of renewal and regeneration in the development, growth and regeneration Directorate.

“It is important to remember that when Ms Cherrington stepped into the role of interim MD for SDEN in 2016 this was in addition to her full-time substantive job and was always intended to be a short-term measure pending alternative arrangements being put in place, with a full-time lead officer. Later than originally envisaged, this has now been achieved.”

Read more: Sutton accused of ‘misleading’ over SDEN and the Heat Trust
Read more: SDEN: A timeline of council bungling and sky-high fuel prices
Read more: Thousands left freezing as council heating network fails again

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