Group claims Scottish Power’s bid to help Falkirk residents still lacks spark

The Falkirk’s Forgotten Villages – Ending Fuel Poverty campaign has made some progress with the local authority but admits it is still struggling to get Scottish Power to take any meaningful action.

At the end of last year the campaign group, started by residents Claire Mackie and Fiona Gordon, and its growing supporters managed to get Scottish Power’s CEO Andrew Ward to meet with residents face to face at a public meeting so he could try and answer their questions about ridiculously high energy bills – some as high as £150 per week – which people claim are forcing them to choose between heating their homes or feeding their families.

Now, two months on and a couple of weeks after their story featured on BBC1 television’s The One Show, the group says families are still struggling to cope with high energy bills and inadequate heating systems.

Claire said: “Falkirk Council has made some progress, giving residents four or five alternative options of boilers which they are going to trial and they have hired a consultant who is going to look at all the systems to see which is going to be the most economic for residents.

“You’re still looking at 12 to 18 months before these boilers are installed, so its going to be another hard winter for people.”

While Claire and the campaigners acknowledge Falkirk Council is making efforts to deal with the issue, they believe Scottish Power is still not doing all it can to assist its customers.

Collectively, Falkirk’s Forgotten Villages – Ending Fuel Poverty highlighted a number of key points regarding Scottish Power.

These included questions over why the firm was not being held accountable for not adjusting people’s rates at the point of an increase/decrease and then not letting them switch supplier and why were residents in rural areas being hit so hard with increases so an average home is paying over £2350 for a year’s usage.

Claire said: “When has it been acceptable to be paying more for heating and hot water than rent and mortgage? Frankly the hundreds of customers trapped feel Scottish Power are holding out as long as possible.

“Why? Because the customers on the Domestic and Economy 2000 tariff are Scottish Power’s ‘cash cow’. We might be a small minority in the overall picture of the UK as a whole, but we have the same rights as the rest of the UK to have a fair price and level of customer service that should reflect the level of weekly spend we have with Scottish Power.

“At the moment its below basic level and Scottish Power do not treat customers fairly.”

During last year’s meeting with residents Scottish Power CEO Andrew Ward actually admitted the firm’s customer service had been “terrible”.

He added: “The reality is prices have increased but it’s just astronomical what you are actually consuming in your homes. I’m responsible for this company so we need to look at this – you have a consumption issue and a potential metering issue which may result in a billing issue.

“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.

“We are taking this extremely seriously.”