Fury as heating bills go up 75%

Sallyanne Lomas and her daughter Olivia aged 2
Sallyanne Lomas and her daughter Olivia aged 2
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HUNDREDS of Sheffield homeowners have been hit by huge hikes in their heating bills - some of up to 75 per cent.

Residents whose homes are warmed by the district heating system have received bills for the year ahead demanding hundreds of pounds more than they paid last year.

In some cases, residents have been asked to pay up to 75 per cent more - around £400 a year, or £30 a month, extra.

The first they knew of the rise was when bills landed on their doormats yesterday.

The hike applies only to people who have bought or now own former council properties. Tenants are not affected.

Working single mum Sallyanne Lomas, aged 42, who bought her former council house on Short Brook Road, Westfield, three years ago, is furious about a bill for £972 to heat her three-bed terrace.

The bill is up from £672 last year - an increase of 44 per cent.

“This is extortionate,” she told The Star. “I can understand the cost of fuel has risen, and if it was a couple of pounds more, even £10 a month, that would be fine. But nearly £30 a month is ridiculous.”

Sallyanne, mum to Olivia, two, works as a transport controller for waste management firm Veolia.

“Like many other people I have had a pay freeze,” she said. “With other utilities on the rise how do they expect people to make ends meet?”

The district heating scheme links properties from the Bernard Road incinerator as well as to council-run boilers which pump hot water around neighbourhoods.

But many residents dislike the set-up because they are charged a fixed bill, irrespective of how much heat they use.

Sheffield Council blamed the rise on a ‘dramatic hike’ in energy costs.

It said the increase would not affect tenants on the district heating system, whose bill is frozen this year because they overpaid last year.

But 420 owner-occupiers will be affected because they ‘underpaid’ last year.

Nora Manning, 86, who has lived on Scraithwood Drive, Shirecliffe, for more than 20 years, has received a gas bill 75 per cent higher than last year - a £412 rise from £553 to £965.

Son Bob, 54, said: “There is no way my mother, who lives on her own in a two-bedroom house the size of a shoebox, will use nearly £1,000 of gas in the next year.”

Nora’s monthly bill has fluctuated wildly over the past decade - from £34.56 in 2003, to £72.68 in 2007, down to £46.08 last year, now up to £87.74.

Opposition councillors have demanded an inquiry - and criticised the administration for not warning residents in advance.

Lib Dem leader Coun Shaffaq Mohammed said: “How can it be fair for one person to see their energy bill nearly double, while the tenant next door can look forward to a price freeze? The fact there has been no consultation, and leaseholders found out only when the bill landed on their doormat, is unacceptable.”

Miranda Plowden, director of commissioning at Sheffield Council, said: “Utility prices have fluctuated which has meant many owner occupiers have seen their district heating bills either reduce or stay the same. In June gas prices increased by 33 per cent, and next year we have been told to expect an increase of up to 16 per cent.”