Flats ‘free’ heating costs taxpayers £100k

Residents at Wauchope will not pay for heating until problems are solved. Picture: Scott Louden
Residents at Wauchope will not pay for heating until problems are solved. Picture: Scott Louden
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FREE heating which has been on tap for residents of two city tower blocks for the past 18 months has cost council taxpayers almost £100,000.

Problems with the botched new heating system for the 172 flats at “Toasty Towers” – Wauchope, pictured, and Greendykes House in Niddrie – have not yet been sorted.

But council chiefs say they expect to start charging tenants for the energy they use within the next month.

The new communal heating system – designed to save energy and cut costs – was installed in December 2012, but the council was unable to start billing residents because three of the properties could not be connected. Two of the three have now been linked up, but one tenant is refusing to allow the connection.

Earlier this month the Evening News revealed the bill for free heating had reached an estimated £72,000. But now council chiefs have admitted the true figure is over £93,000.

At last week’s council meeting, Edinburgh Tory group leader Cameron Rose asked council leader Andrew Burns if he was embarrassed that the free heating provided to the two tower blocks, thanks to the council’s “inefficiency and incompetence”, had cost the public purse almost £100,000. Councillor Burns replied: “It’s absolutely not an ideal situation.” He said mistakes had been made, but promised they would be rectified.

Figures given by officials show the unbilled energy costs at the two blocks were £2260 up to April last year and £91,422 from then until March this year. The council said costs for 2014/15 were not available.

Tory councillor Jason Rust, who tabled the questions on heating costs, said: “It’s a scandalous situation that this has gone on so long and we still don’t have the full answers.

“The Evening News has highlighted this scandal which has grown out of what should have been a straightforward installation of a new heating system.

“There is supposed to be a report coming back to us in September, but I would not be surprised if they come back and say they have still not reached a solution.”

The council’s official price for installing the system was £2.1m, but online testimonials, quoted up to £4m.

Questioned on the figure, the council would only say it had not concluded its negotiation with the contractor and “this figure does not reflect the council’s position on agreed costs”.

The council said up to 40 flats appeared not to be using the new system and officials had been unable to gain access to six flats to check for faults.

But the council said: “It is anticipated that tenants will be liable for the energy costs from July 2014, once we are satisfied the system is working effectively and all 172 households have the opportunity to use it.”