London councils have reportedly halted the forced installation of prepayment meters after fears some residents would be left without heating.
Residents of Hathersage Court in north London complained that prepayment tariffs would be implemented as temperatures have dropped to -10C in recent weeks.
The Guardian reports that Islington Council has put the scheme – which was due to launch on January 23 – on hold and will “provide an opportunity to discuss the different billing options available” following the complaints.
Prepayment meters have attracted criticism because, as a “pay as you go” method of paying for gas and electricity, they can leave vulnerable households at risk of running out of credit – and the lights out. Going – in the winter.
Bills are rising fast, paying for energy in real time means customer payments are heaviest in the coldest and darkest months of the year and cannot be spread out as a monthly direct debit.
The meter can also be used by suppliers to collect debts, with the amount owed being deducted from each top up, leaving people with less money for their daily needs.
Paula Beattie, who has lived in the housing block for eight years, told the paper: “It was a complete shock to discover we were being moved to prepayment. I encouraged others to make the switch because a set amount Would it be fair to pay for what we use instead of .. then the council told us it would be prepay this month.
“I’m worried it will be too expensive and once I exceed the £5 emergency fund I will be automatically cut off.”
Based on Ofgem average usage rates for one bedroom flats, residents calculated that they would be paying £480 more per year for access and around £70 more in permanent charges than a typical flat occupant.
He said the larger flats would pay £720 more than the average in Great Britain. The installations are controlled by Heat Networks Expert Switch 2.
Islington Council’s executive member for homes and communities, Una O’Halloran, said the council told residents about the decision to prepay last summer, but also apologized and promised to improve communication.
She said: “The government is allowing all councils to install heat meters in homes connected to communal heating systems that meet certain criteria. There are two options available – prepayment and monthly credit billing.
“We have heard the concerns of residents in Hatheredge Court about how they will be able to pay for their heat in the future, and while we are discussing these options with them, we are pausing the implementation of the plan so that we do not lose any completely address the concern.
Islington Council has been contacted for comment.
(translate to tag) The Guardian