Thousands of people living in homes with centrally supplied electricity are still waiting to hear if and when the UK government will pay them the £400 promised under the energy bills support scheme.
While those living in conventional homes with standard electricity meters are due to receive their second monthly payment of £66, concern is growing among some of the several hundred thousand households that receive their electricity via a communal supply that they will not see any of the money they have been promised.
The government has told campaigners an announcement on how they will be paid will be made within “weeks rather than months”.
The energy bills support scheme, announced by the then chancellor, Rishi Sunak, in February, provides a £400 discount to households via reduced domestic electricity bills spread over six months between October 2022 and March 2023.
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While payments have been arriving for those who live in standard homes and pay for their energy by direct debt, the scheme has been beset with problems getting the money to other groups.
Last week it emerged that people on prepayment meters were struggling to use vouchers delivering their help, while those whose home relies on a communal electricity supply and local sub-meters – a private wire supply, as it is termed – are still in the dark as to how they will be helped.
The problem mostly affects those living in recent housing developments with a communal electricity supply. These tenants are typically billed by their landlord or the managing agent company according to the amount recorded by a sub-meter. It is a similar story at most of the UK’s 180,000 or so park homes, and many large homes converted into bedsits.
This week the Guardian was contacted by the owner of one of 63 apartments in the Horizon View complex in Westward Ho! in Devon.
Sue Ellis said: “While most of the flats are holiday lets and not entitled to the payments, there is a core group of elderly people, many with serious underlying health issues, who live here all the time but are not getting the £400 that everyone has been promised.
“I understand it is because while each flat has its own gas meter, all the electricity is supplied centrally by one company. Concerned for my elderly neighbours, I have asked our local MP about the issue but have heard nothing further beyond an acknowledgment.”
Stephen Knight, a director of Heat Trust, the national consumer protection scheme for heat networks, says he has taken the issue up with ministers and been told that a resolution is weeks away.
“Traditionally there was a good reason why certain buildings had a central electricity supplier. Typically they had solar panels or other generating capacity, which allowed the residents to share in the benefits. Ministers have promised they are looking at this issue but so far details on how this group will be paid are yet to emerge.”
A government spokesperson said: “We know this is a difficult time for people across the country, including those with a communal electricity supply, which is why they will receive help with their energy bills through the energy bill relief scheme. We recently passed legislation meaning private network suppliers must pass on the savings they receive through the scheme to residents.
“Additionally, those using communal electricity will also receive £400 in support through a scheme set up for those without a domestic electricity meter which we will announce shortly.”