Choice between heating or eating

Single dad John Paton resorted to food banks this winter to keep on top of his heating bills.Single dad John Paton resorted to food banks this winter to keep on top of his heating bills.
Single dad John Paton resorted to food banks this winter to keep on top of his heating bills.
Housing association tenants claim they had to choose between heating and eating last winter, due to the archaic storage heaters in their homes.

And tenants in Mill Place, Thankerton, may have to wait until 2022 or 2023 before the issue is resolved.

A number of tenants, headed by single dad John Paton, raised their concerns with Clydesdale Housing Association – but they feel they are being left out in the cold.

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John said: “I’ve had to use food banks because it costs so much to heat my home, while some of the neighbours resorted to blankets and coats to keep themselves warm and the bills down last winter.

"Now it looks like we might be facing another two years of this. We’re being asked, in 2021, to choose between eating and heating.”

The tenants’ fight has been backed by the Scottish Green Party.

Laura Moodie, who is standing as a regional MSP for the South of Scotland in the May elections, discussed her concerns directly with the housing association – but had little joy.

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She said: “It’s appalling that these tenants are facing the stark choice of heating or eating. One elderly lady was paying £50 a week for her energy bills. That’s a lot of money when you’re only on a pension."

However, tenants in Mill Place are not the housing association’s top priority – 118 homes which don’t currently meet industry standards are in front of them in the queue.

Clydesdale Housing Association has been awarded £132,600 to help tenants struggling to heat their homes.

The money has been allocated from the Scottish Government’s Social Housing Fuel Support Fund.

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Joe Gorman, the association’s chief executive, said: “We are now working with a third party energy advice agency on the distribution of these funds, details of which will be shared with tenants in the near future.”

According to Mr Gorman, however, Mill Place in Thankerton is not the association’s top priority.

Explaining why, he said: “We are required to achieve the Energy Efficiency Standard for Social Housing (EESSH). We currently have 118 homes that do not meet EESSH. Homes in Mill Place, Thankerton, do meet the standard.

“CHA has a programme for the replacement of ageing electric storage heating systems. This programme was significantly affected by coronavirus. This has led to phase one of the programme, 147 replacements planned for 2020/21, being delayed until 2021/22.

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“Homes in Mill Place are in phase two of this programme which was originally planned for 2021/22, but because of the delay caused by coronavirus, will now unfortunately not take place until 2022/23.”

Should phase one of the programme progress ahead of schedule, and if resources allow, the association will accelerate phase two.

Mr Gorman did, however, stress the association was aware of the predicament tenants faced.

He added: "Tenants who have these electric storage heaters are significantly restricted in their choice of utility supplier. Replacement solutions will address this issue and give tenants real choice.

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“We have not ruled out converting Mill Place to mains gas heating and are investigating renewable heating systems and insulation upgrades to improve building energy efficiency.

“In the meantime, tenants experiencing problems with energy costs should contact us. We can bring in support from an energy advice and advocacy agency to help.”