Posted: Wed 21st Jun 2023

Flintshire Council feels heat as commercial gas contract hiked by eye-watering 420%

News and Info from Deeside, Flintshire, North Wales
This article is old - Published: Wednesday, Jun 21st, 2023

Flintshire Council has been hit by soaring energy costs as its commercial contract for gas has been hiked an eye-watering 420 per cent.

At this month’s meeting of the authority’s cabinet, councillors were told the renewal of its industrial and commercial contract for gas had increased in line with national market rates.

This means there will be an increase in heating bills for residents living in the council’s communal complexes.

Flintshire Council has eight communal heating schemes, with 417 properties on communal heating systems.

Cabinet member for housing, Shotton West Cllr Sean Bibby (Lab) said the new tariff had recently been negotiated after the previous contract expired, with the rate the council was being charged for gas increasing by 420 per cent.

Those tenants have been written to and notified they will be facing increased heating bills, based on prior year’s energy use.

Speaking at the meeting, Rachel Corbelli, strategic finance manager, explained: “We’ve looked at a number of ways which we could minimise the impact to tenants.

“As you all know the wholesale gas market is still really volatile and high-level forecasts for gas prices next year range from a 12.5 per cent reduction through to a seven per cent increase in our prices so it would be prudent to assume that prices could increase further as much as they could reduce.”

Ms Corbelli added that if the charges to tenants were spread further in the future the risk of the council not being able to fully recover the costs would increase due to the instability in the gas market.

She said there was a need to make sure communal tenants were treated fairly with other social tenants who had already experienced price increases in the last year.

Data shows an average household pays £933 per year on a one-bedroom property, which rises to £1,345 on a three-bedroom property.

Ms Corbelli said: “The charges we are recommending in the report range from £677 for a one-bed through to £1,049 for a three-bed, therefore fall well within the average range being paid by the average householder and all our other social housing tenants.”

Having sent letters out to tenants, the council has only received one query back around energy efficiency work which the council is looking into.

Ms Corbelli said tenants would continue to be supported were possible with financial assistance, grants and discount schemes such as the Energy Support Scheme payments already delivered.

Charges will come in on July 31, and any delay will mean the council has to recover the costs.

Council leader, Flint Castle Cllr Ian Roberts (Lan) praised cladding work on the tower blocks in Flint increasing their thermal and energy efficiency, and other parts of the county.

Cllr Bibby noted feedback from the housing scrutiny committee who requested the cabinet look at spreading the cost increases over a longer period to lessen the financial impact on tenants, and were not prepared to support the increase.

He said: “Clearly there were concerns about financial implications to tenants.

“We did give a commitment we would do further work following on from scrutiny last week, trying to look at ways we could mitigate any financial impact of these very significant increases.

“But I think as the service manager has re-laid in her report, I don’t think there’s any further scope that we can do to spread those costs out over a longer period.”

The council’s cabinet backed the increase in communal heating charges for 2023-24.

By Rory Sheehan – Local Democracy Reporter (more here).

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