Falkirk fuel poverty campaigners take their fight to new Scottish housing minister

A group of residents fighting back against high energy prices in the Braes area of Falkirk as they wait for a promised gas installation have now taken their campaign to Holyrood’s new housing secretary.

By James Trimble
Wednesday, 26th May 2021, 10:37 am
Updated Wednesday, 26th May 2021, 10:39 am

MSP Shona Robison was appointed cabinet secretary for social justice, housing and local government following this month’s Scottish Parliament election.

Members of the Falkirk’s Forgotten Villages – Ending Fuel Poverty group have not wasted any time introducing themselves to the new secretary.

The co-founder of the group, Slamannan resident Claire Mackie, wrote to the MSP on behalf of the residents of the Braes, who have been hammered with high energy bills and waiting for a year now for gas to be installed.

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Falkirk's Forgotten Villages - Ending Fuel Poverty campaign has now written to new Scottish housing secretary Shona Robison explaining their plight

After giving background on the reason the group was formed, she stated: "The tariff provided by Scottish Power is called an Economy 2000 and currently the majority of residents/Falkirk Council tenants are paying up to £150 to £200 per week, just to heat their homes.

"Further to this the heating system is inefficient and not fit for purpose – with people not able to put their heating on during certain times and also not having hot water available and homes are not warm.

"Falkirk Council committed to installing mains gas in June 2020 and we are a further 12 months down-the-line and still awaiting a decision from SGN as to whether they will do the project – this has now been advised as due on June 18.

“Housing Minister, we are asking for your/the Scottish Government's help and support for this serious fuel poverty pandemic and supporting those constituents suffering at the hands of these organisations.”

Just this week Falkirk Council, who made the commitment to install gas in 700 properties in the Braes area, stated it is waiting on SGN for the go ahead.

However, gas network provider SGN stated it is waiting on authorisation from the council to begin the long awaited installation.

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.

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 is this uncertainty which has Falkirk’s Forgotten Villages – Ending Fuel Poverty seriously contemplating further protests and perhaps even legal action.