Falkirk area villagers fear gas installation promise is all just hot air
A group of residents fighting back against high energy prices in the Braes area of Falkirk are getting conflicting reports about the gas installation programme they were promised a year ago.
On the one hand you have Falkirk Council who made the commitment to install gas in 700 properties in the Braes area, stating it is waiting on SGN for the go ahead and then you have gas network provider SGN stating it is waiting on authorisation from the council to begin the long awaited installation.
The Falkirk’s Forgotten Villages – Ending Fuel Poverty campaign began in November 2019 when residents complained the THERMAflow electric heating system Falkirk Council recommended be installed in their homes was combining with the Scottish Power fuel tariff to create extraordinarily expensive bills – some as high as £150 per week.
Their online petition demanded an investigation into the rising costs and resulted in a face to face meeting with Scottish Power CEO Andrew Ward.
The group then scored a major victory – or so they thought – in June 2020 when Falkirk Council agreed to begin installing gas central heating in over 700 properties in the Braes area.
Slamannan resident Claire Mackie, co-founder of Falkirk’s Fortgotten Villages – Ending Fuel Poverty, said: “It’s been nearly 12 months since Falkirk Council committed to the mains gas and we are still waiting on a decision from SGN if this will happen.
"The decision from SGN was due over two weeks ago and still nothing.”
A Falkirk Council spokesperson said: “We are keen to resolve the issues of high cost electric heating experienced by our tenants in off-gas areas. The council is not, however, responsible for the installation of gas supplies and therefore look forward to receiving a costed proposal from SGN soon, in order to inform a way forward for our tenants.”
An SGN spokesperson said: “We're working closely with Falkirk Council on their application to expand our network. Our proposals are in the latter stages but we'll need authorisation from Falkirk Council before proceeding with installation.”
It’s this uncertainty which has Falkirk’s Forgotten Villages – Ending Fuel Poverty seriously contemplating further protests and perhaps even legal action.
Last August members of Falkirk's Forgotten Villages Ending Fuel Poverty protested outside Scottish Power's headquarters in Glasgow.
They gathered outside Scottish Power's headquarters in St Vincent Street with banners stating “Scottish Power – Creating Poverty”, “Scottish Power – Home of the Ruthless”, “Stop Putting Profit Before Life” and “Reduce Tariffs Now”.
Claire said: “We are planning a series of protests shortly at the Scottish Parliament, Scottish Power, Falkirk Council and Neat Heat and we are also looking at legal action.”
During the December 2019 meeting with customers at Falkirk Council’s municipal buildings, Scottish Power CEO Andrew Ward actually admitted to those present Scottish Power’s customer service had been “terrible” but the firm was now “trying to make amends”.
He said: “If there is a problem with the billing then we need to sort it. We don’t have anywhere else in the UK that has such a small nucleus of people who have such a high consumption.”