High energy costs: Falkirk residents face stark choice of 'heat or eat'

Residents in some areas of Falkirk admitted they are struggling so much with high energy costs they only turn their heating on if their grandchildren are coming to visit.

By James Trimble
Thursday, 23rd September 2021, 2:03 pm

Falkirk’s Forgotten Villages – Ending Fuel Poverty group fears some families are going to be forced to choose between heating and eating this winter.

Claire Mackie, group co-founder, said: “Winter is a constant worry for our members – with increased fuel prices and the impact of the pandemic – it's a real concern how they are going to get through winter.

“The concern of someone dying due to the freezing properties or malnutrition is very real this year. We’ve had families having to share beds due to houses being freezing as they were not able to afford to put heating on last winter. There are others who have been forced to use food banks to eat and provide for their families.”

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Falkirk's Forgotten Villages - Ending Fuel Poverty campaigners took their fight to Scottish Power's Glasgow HQ last year

The Falkirk’s Forgotten Villages – Ending Fuel Poverty campaign began in November 2019 when residents complained the THERMAflow electric heating system

Falkirk Council installed in their homes was combining with the Scottish Power fuel tariff to create bills as high as £150 per week.

Claire said: “We still haven't received confirmation from Scottish Power if they are providing the emergency winter payments, which have become a lifeline. Support from Falkirk Council is only for those on low incomes, so there is no support for those that work, but are still struggling due to high costs.”

In June 2020 campaigners thought they had scored a major victory when Falkirk Council agreed to begin installing gas central heating in over 700 properties in the Braes area.

However, in June this year Falkirk Council stated the high cost of installing gas central heating in Braes villages had forced it to “undertake further assessment” on the promise it made a year earlier.

Whitecross resident Wendy Womble said: “Our bills at this time are usually around £100 per week. Last year we were in the position where we had to decide if we could have our grandchildren to stay. It really hit home to us when we had our grandson staying with us and he came out the bath, absolutely chittering.

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"We would put the heating on when they would stay with us. The last four years have been bad and we have considered moving. I complained about this before Falkirk’s Forgotten Villages began. I thought it was just me and then realised it was happening to a lot of people.”

Lynne Reid, also from Whitecross, added: “I’m disabled and I’m in the house all the time and when my husband goes to work I turn the heating off and sit here with blankets over me to keep warm.

"When my daughter and grandsons visit me I turn the heating on for them. The bills were over £100 a week last year so I don’t know what they will be like this year when it gets really cold and we have to turn the heating on.

"You really do have to choose between eating something good or heating the house – it’s a living nightmare. I would like for someone at Scottish Power to live in this house with the money we are living on and see how they get on.”

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