PENSIONERS at a sheltered housing complex in Freshbrook have been hit by shocking hikes in their electricity bills – of 1,200 per cent.
One resident at Windmill Court, off Uxbridge Road, said he has been forced to consider selling off his prized possessions just to make ends meet. Colin Graham, 65, has been leading the fight for accountability from Southern Housing Group, which runs Windmill Court, and said the company is taking advantage of the age of residents. He said: “The average age in here is around 80 and a lot of people just can’t get their heads round these figures, so they just accept them.”
Mr Graham said he was staggered when he saw the increase in communal electricity bills for the 66 flats in the complex. For a single flat the figure had shot up from £92.70 per year to £1,241.79, and for a double flat from £123.37 to £1,552.23.
For Ronnie Martin, 71, the hike has left him surviving on just £24 per week. “I get £178 per week for my pension – my rent has now gone up to £137, and I pay £17 council tax. That leaves me with £24 to get through the week,” he said.
“I collect old plates and I was always planning to pass them on to my family when I’m gone – but the way things are going I might have to sell them. It makes me very sad but I have to survive.”
The hike has left all the residents feeling the pinch. Barry Beavon, 68, said: “If we were to see another increase like this there’s just no way most of us could survive.
“Southern Housing are acting like the mafia – they would get money out of anyone.”
And Geoff Minton said: “If Colin and some of the others hadn’t taken this on I probably would have just paid it. I can’t understand all the figures and that’s what Southern Housing are relying on.”
Fred Morse, 82, said: “We are not asking for any special privileges – all we want is what’s fair.”
Mr Graham said he has been fighting Southern Housing since they took over James Butcher Housing Association in 2006. He said: “We had an action group where we would take the housing officer to task but that was soon crushed. You have people in here who are very old, some who aren’t as sharp as they used to be. Someone has to stick up for these people.”
Caroline Tiller, executive director of James Butcher, said: “We are in touch with our residents, and a letter was sent out to let everyone know that we are aware of the charges and are looking into them.
“We have organised an independent investigation into any electricity meter discrepancies.
Following this report, we will act accordingly in consultation with the residents to make sure the right adjustments are made.”