Hefty heating bills leave council accused of ecological hypocrisy

Hefty heating bills leave council accused of ecological hypocrisy

By Michael Upton | 08/04/2021

Hefty heating bills leave council accused of ecological hypocrisy

 

COUNCIL officials have been accused of hypocrisy by pushing energy efficiency while leaving residents on one estate in draughty houses with heating bills of up to £200 a month.

Rotherham Council officially declared a climate emergency in 2019 but fed up tenants on the Patios Estate in Swinton said they seemed less keen to fight costly fuel bills and energy waste on their own doorstep.

RMBC cut costs after a residents’ campaign in 2018 but tenants said they were still being hit by high bills and putting up with properties that leaked heat.

Resident Stephen Carr, of Beecham Court, said: “The biggest problem is that as we’re on district heating, we cannot go to any other suppliers.

“I can be putting £20 in for just three days, so it can add up to £200 a month.

“And we’re only talking about heating, because the water is electric.

“But it’s not just about the heating, but also about insulation.

“You can put the heating on, but after you turn it off, within half an hour all the heat has gone and it’s cold again.

“The houses used to be double tier, but they took the top tier away and just put corrugated sheets on the roof.

“I have said they could put some foam in the roof but the council are not bothered.”

RMBC agreed to reduce costs from 8.72p per kWh to 6.28p per kWh following the residents’ campaign a but this is still well above the UK average of 3.80p as reported by comparison site UK Power.

The Patios Estate also known as the Fitzwilliam Estate is one of a small number of areas where homes do not have their own boilers and are instead supplied by large industrial boilers dotted around the estate.

Ironically, RMBC is this month launching its own Uswitch-style energy saving platform, aimed at helping residents tap into the best value deals on the market but their own tenants on district heating are unable to take advantage of this scheme.

Mr Carr, who lives with his daughter Rebecca, said: “There are some good deals out there as well but in our position, we’re trying to keep the heating off as much as possible.”

Mr Carr said his property had also been hit with damp issues and some of the guttering needed repair, adding: “If a private landlord was doing this, the council would come down on them hard and tell them to get it sorted but they are just getting away with it.”

A council spokesperson said RMBC had spent £370,000 investing in new cavity wall insulation on the Fitzwilliam Estate to improve energy efficiency, which was “regarded as successful by many people living in the area”.

She pointed out the council had frozen charges on district heating schemes since 2018 and most tenants were paying an average of £50 a month, which was comparable to most private homes.

“It isn’t possible to compare the unit cost with other energy suppliers because tenants are charged by heat used, not gas supplied, so there is no direct comparison between the two charges,” the spokeswoman said.

She said tenants had been given £80 in fuel bill help from the Government’s Covid-19 Winter Relief Fund but the authority “understands that despite our best efforts, some tenants living on this estate are struggling to afford to heat their homes”.

Tenants could use the council’s comparison scheme for electricity but not for heating, the spokeswoman confirmed.

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