By Andrew Topping, Local Democracy Reporter
Hundreds of people living in social homes run by Ashfield District Council will see their weekly heating bills fall significantly by the end of next month.
The Ashfield Independent-led council has approved a cut to its communal heating charges for about 300 social houses, meaning those properties will see bills fall by at least £12.80 a week.
The charge is normally reviewed annually and the council takes into account any under or over-collection from the previous financial year.
Councillors had increased weekly bills for all homes in January because of high forecasts for the cost of gas and electricity.
The increase, which came into effect on April 3 this year, led to weekly bills for ‘Band A’ homes rising from £22.08 to £30.47.
But now the council plans to slash tenants’ bills from October 30 after saying the cost forecasts used in January were too high.
It means weekly heating bills for Band A homes will fall from £30.47 per week to £17.67 – a cut of £12.80 per week or £243.20 between November 2023 and the end of the financial year next March.
The drop in charges is also being implemented for all other bands of properties in the council’s ownership.
Band B homes’ weekly charges will drop from £32.79 to £19.02 – a fall of £13.77, while Band C homes’ heating costs are to fall from £34.42 to £19.96.
A Band D home will now pay £21.19 per week – a £15.35 weekly drop from £36.54 and £291.65 between November and the end of the financial year.
Cllr Rachel Madden (Ash Ind), the council’s portfolio holder for finance, confirmed the drop in the authority’s cabinet meeting on Monday (September 18).
She said: “Our heating charges were set in January for 2023/24 and were increased significantly due to ongoing forecasted costs of energy at that time.
“When the next contract is implemented in October 2023, it’s therefore proposed to implement an in-year decrease to the contractual heating charge from October 30 this year.
“By doing this, it ensures tenants receive reduced charges as quickly as possible to help mitigate some of the adverse effects of the cost of living crisis on some of these specific residents.”
Despite the new reductions, bills will still be higher than they were this time last year.
Band A households had been paying as little as £11.04 per week from April to October 2022, before a separate increase was implemented last November.
Cllr Helen-Ann Smith, the authority’s deputy leader, added: “It’s something we should be really proud of.
“It isn’t something we have to do as it’s something we normally do annually.
“However, we’ve chosen to do it mid-year at a time when people are struggling.”
Cllr Madden also said the authority’s housing revenue account – responsible for managing its housing – is facing an in-year underspend of £8.7m.
This relates to the council’s contracted partner J. Tomlinson Ltd entering administration in July and leading to repair projects being delayed into future financial years.
The Nottingham-based contractor’s collapse led to the loss of more than 400 jobs with the company’s CEO saying it had done its “utmost” to keep the business going.
Cllr Madden added: “This has caused a programme of works to fall into future financial years while the council tenders for a new partner for housing major works schemes.”