Falkirk’s Forgotten Villages: Fears over ‘devastating’ energy bill price rises

A mum who has been paying up to £50 a day for electricity says she “doesn’t even want to think about” what a price rise in April will mean for her.

By Kirsty Paterson, Local Democracy Reporting Service
Tuesday, 8th February 2022, 2:04 pm
Updated Tuesday, 8th February 2022, 2:04 pm

Mary Quinn, from South Alloa, has been paying between £35 and £50 every day for electricity for her two-bedroom council house since last October – forcing her to rely on food banks and sinking her into debt.

A further 40 per cent increase in April is a rise that she simply cannot afford.

“It’s devastating – absolutely devastating – not just for me but for other people in a similar situation,” she said.

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Despite her ill-health, she has taken on a second part-time job simply to feed her electricity meter, which is often around £1400 every month.

The 52-year-old said: “It’s an absolute nightmare – I’m literally considering buying a tent for April.”

“If it wasn’t for my family, I think that actually would be my only option.

“I am looking at a price rise of about £700 a month – if you only work part-time, it’s literally your whole wage.”

Mary is one of around 700 Falkirk Council tenants who got the Thermaflow electric heating system to replace a coal fire around 10 years ago.

A sudden price rise three years ago sent their bills rocketing, while another price hike in October took Mary’s bill to over £50 a month.

But although her bill is extreme, there are other council tenants in desperate financial difficulties due to their energy bills – and many who sit wrapped in blankets or shivering round gas fires to keep warm.

Despite a high profile campaign organised by Falkirk’s Forgotten Villages, a resolution has not been found.

Falkirk Council has agreed to spend £8m to solve the problem, installing mains gas in several villages and new electric heating systems in smaller communities, like Mary’s tiny village.

It could be years before all of the heating systems are replaced – although Mary’s should be this summer.

After the Local Democracy Reporting Service highlighted Mary’s plight, her boiler was checked and she was advised it would be cheaper to leave the system running 24 hours a day.

While that did reduce her bills, she is still paying around £35 a day for her heating and electricity.

According to the Office for National Statistics, levels of fuel poverty among households using electricity as primary heating fuel have remained among the highest, at 43 per cent.

Mary said: “I’m just trying not to think about it at the moment.”

“I’ve had loads of messages since my story was first in the paper, and I think a lot of people will be in a similar position to me after April. It’s just absolutely crazy.”

Linlithgow and East Falkirk MP Martyn Day said: “The UK Government holds key powers of energy costs and incomes that can make a difference to people experiencing fuel poverty.

“The measures recently announced by the Chancellor are pitiful. The SNP have urged the UKG to review the obligation costs on energy bills to reduce the premium paid by households reliant on electric heating and help to unlock the deployment of low and zero emissions heating.”

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