A major row has erupted between Comhairle nan Eilean Siar and a Glasgow-based company dealing in insulation and heating.
Union Technical Services of City Wall House, Eastwood Avenue, Glasgow, describes itself as certified in proving loft insulation, room-in-roof insulation, cavity wall Insulation, under-floor insulation, boiler replacements and internal wall insulation.
Director Michael Sweeney says the company draws on “knowledge from previous schemes and hands-on construction experience to ensure targets are met and quality is at the forefront of delivery.”
Stornoway’s website welovestornoway.com finds itself caught in the middle of the row as it started to carry an advertisement for the company’s work in the Western Isles yesterday (Tuesday February 13th).
This morning (Wednesday February 14th) the website was contacted by CnES Trading Standards to indicate that a media release relating to the company was being issued by the Council.
The release then was emailed to media outlets locally and throughout Scotland and referred in general to cold-calling and specifically to an issue relating to the quality of some work undertaken by Union Technical Services.
Website editor Fred Silver then contacted the company for a comment about the CnES release. The company totally rejected the claim made by CnES and said it had no record of any such complaint, either from a customer or from CnES Trading standards.
A reaction was then requested from the Council, asking them to confirm there had actually been a complaint made to the company before the website ran the original release. The Council later responded: “The press release has been widely circulated so we are content for EVENTS not to run it. We are unable to comment on Trading Standards' investigation or on specific installations.”
In the meantime, there had been an exchange on the EVENTS Facebook page where Jacqueline Macmillan asked about a post relating to UTS: “Given that work undertaken by them at a house in Melbost was being investigated by Trading Standards, not sure if it's something you should be promoting?”
Owen Coyle, Director of UTS, responded: “Since our time working on the island we have had several communications with Trading Standards who have been satisfied at each given opportunity.
“Our manufacturer partner and an external surveyor have confirmed the job is up to spec. You can find us on the OFTEC website as well as several other accreditation websites for the work we carry out.
“All our employees carry ID. The nature of the work we carry out is to aid the fuel poor in the Highlands and Islands and we look forward to allocating as much of that funding on the islands as possible.”
Mr Coyle told welovestornoway.com that he had been in contact with Western Isles MP Angus MacNeil to get his assistance in resolving the issues.
In a statement issued nationally, Mr Coyle said: "We are proud of our work on the Isle of Lewis and have not received any customer complaint against Union Technical Services (UTS) staff or any work carried out by our highly qualified engineers.
"UTS has worked with many customers based in and around Stornoway, many of whom would have had no heating in their home prior to the work being carried out and couldn't afford the repairs/installations themselves.
"The field agents working in Stornoway are UTS employees who have been interviewed, assessed and trained in house and follow strict conduct guidelines.
“Staff are under strict advice to avoid no-cold calling notices and walk away from refusals without any pressuring. UTS are members of the National Energy Action, a leading UK fuel poverty charity as well as being a registered supporter of "Dementia Friends".
“We do not charge for any part of our government backed-scheme funded by utilities.
"All UTS engineers are approved by OFTEC, who set the standard for oil boiler installations. UTS is a fully insured OFTEC approved organisation. Moreover, the installers are all trained on the specific boiler which they are installing, by the manufacturer. The manufacturer themselves are satisfied with the quality of all works completed by UTS as well as our credentials.
"From January 2017 we will be using local labour to ensure as much benefit is drawn into the local area as possible. Anyone who is unsure of the scheme or would like more information should get in touch or come to our ‘meet and greet day’ which is being organised for the second week in January in Stornoway.
"In 2016 UTS has assisted over 5000 customers insulate their properties and upgrade their heating. UTS are particularly experienced in dealing with customers throughout rural Scotland and keen to ensure that funding is applied for in areas which are traditionally overlooked when it comes to fuel poverty programmes.
"UTS will continue to work closely with authorities and services to ensure the local community are made aware of what funding they are entitled to in a manner that is not disruptive.
“We recently received a Scottish wide award for Fabric Insulation installer of the year 2016, a title we are particularly proud of as well as our reputation."