Comment: Tower block heating serious matter

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THE council taxpayers of Edinburgh might not know whether to laugh or cry at today’s story about two tower blocks in Craigmillar.

The News reported previously on a new communal heating system which was designed to reduce energy use and cut costs at Wauchope and Greendykes House.

In December, it emerged that residents at the 15-storey tower blocks had been receiving free gas heating for more than a year as a result of a failure to bill residents.

At the time assurances were given that the already cash-strapped council would not allow the situation to continue and literally burn money.

But that is exactly what has happened.

We are now 18 months into what has turned into an expensive and embarassing fiasco for Edinburgh City Council where 170 properties are receiving free heating at an estimated cost so far of £72,000.

That is separate from the set-up costs of the scheme which the local authoirty has refused to clarify. However, this is reckoned to be somewhere between £2.1 and £4 million.

Of course, for the residents of these 170 properties this must seem quite funny – and a welcome respite from their household bills. One family has told the News that many householders have their heating cranked up to full and on 24 hours a day. “It’s like Barbados in here,” one person joked.

But this isn’t so amusing for the rest of us. Money that is wasted in this way ultimately affects all of us. Other vital services will have to be trimmed or cut to find the squandered cash.

The News has will continue to ask questions of housing convener Cammy Day about why this bizarre debacle is ongoing. Let’s hope we get more clarity from the council than: “A report will be presented to a committee in September”.

The taxpayers of Edinburgh deserve better than that.