Following on from the Wembley Matters story about over-charging for gas bills on the Stonebridge Estate by Switch2 LINK, this weekend a story broke on Twitter about council tenants in South Kilburn getting into difficulties over very high electricity bills in the buildings due to be demolished. Apart from the energy crisis some of the blame for higher bills was attributed to the Council’s failure to maintain the fabric of the deteriorating buildings.
Wembley Matters has talked to tenants in the various affected buildings. One said:
When l first moved into Blake years ago l was shocked to realised that l had to top up £10 a day to keep electricity going. I learned that this was the case for other flats like mine heated by storage heaters. We had the old generation heaters really expensive to run and obsolete. The property was hot in the morning when families are in school or work and then at 5pm when everyone is home, they would be cold. Even by using the input and output switches correctly. Totally inadequate. £300 a month was hard enough. The bills increased when we got a smart meter installed and then further during the cost of living crisis. Heaters were replaced but nothing changed. Surveyors and electricians came but could not find the issue and blamed it on the state of building.
Tenants claim that now bills are between £600 and £1000 a month for a three bedroom flats and between £300 and £600 for two bedroom flats on the estate. Tenants in Austen, Wordsworth, Masefield and Dickens all have the same issue. Many in over £5k debts. These are figures for summer bills.. Wembley Matters was told that people are now terrified when they think about winter, ‘Everyone is cold and yet they are required to pay thousands. We applied for the resident fund to cover the debts but were soon billed hundreds again.”
A tenant in Austen has a £500 a month direct debit set up for electricity (£380 for usage and £120 for debt repayments) and is struggling with other bills and necessities. A tenant in Blake was told she owes over £9k to electricity providers and another owes over £6k.
A tenant concluded:
What are people supposed to do? Some chose to turn everything off in winter to try and control the bills but end up with mould and damp because the properties are not heated. This affected their health and damaged the property and bills were still high. The council has a duty of care and families on low income are being pushed into further destitution and fuel poverty. These bills are the result of old and unfit for habitation properties and residents should not be forced to keep paying like this.
Unfortunately, I heard as I completed this article that Brent Housing Management failed to turn up at a meeting at William Dunbar House today that had been arranged for 4pm – 6pm. The meeting was arranged as a result of tenants raising high electricity charges and issues around squatters and cleaning issues that the South Kilburn Regen Team could not help with.