All residents in off-gas villages should have received a letter giving an update on the progress made and the plans that are in place to improve the energy efficiency of their homes.

These letters were issued in February 2022 and included a newsletter providing additional information, which is also included below.

  1. Table of contents

Alternative heating systems

Gas heating

The gas infrastructure will be installed in:

  • Avonbridge
  • California
  • Letham
  • Slamannan
  • Whitecross

The process to install the infrastructure will take approximately 2 years to complete. We are currently carrying out an exercise to appoint a contractor to carry out these works and until this has finished, we are unable to provide installation dates.

Following the installation of the pipeline into the villages, we will then arrange for gas heating to be installed into homes (if this is the preferred heating choice).

Green energy system

The green energy system will be installed in:

  • Blackness
  • Limerigg
  • Standburn
  • South Alloa
  • Torwood

The green energy system chosen, for villages where there is no gas supply, will be an Air Source Heat Pump (ASHP) heating system, supported by solar panels, also known as photovoltaics (PV) and battery storage.

The installation of this programme will be carried out in 2 phases:

Phase 1

  • Blackness
  • Standburn
  • South Alloa
  • Torwood

We have appointed Easy Heat to carry out these works for us and expect installations to start in April 2022, with a 10-12 week programme to complete.

Phase 2

  • Limerigg

We are currently at a procurement stage to appoint a contractor to carry out these works.

Once this process is complete, we will contact tenants directly once we have more information.


Servicing and maintenance of wet heating systems

A contract to carry out an annual service for all properties with an electric wet heating system commenced last year, however, this was delayed primarily due to the Covid-19 pandemic and contractor resources. This contract started again in February 2022.

Our contractor, Neat Heat, will contact tenants directly to arrange a suitable date and time to carry out the service. Any reported faults or repairs to the system will continue to be carried out on a responsive basis.


Financial support for tenants

Falkirk Council

We are providing a £100 one-off payment to households in receipt of Council Tax Reduction and who are also living in an off-gas area.

Eligible households have already received a letter informing them of this support and we are contacting households directly to arrange payments. 427 off-gas households have been identified as eligible and most people have now received this payment.

We are working to reach out again to those we failed to contact. If you have received a letter and have not made arrangements for the payment, please telephone 01324 506070 and ask for the Support for People Team.

Debt (including fuel debt)

If you have any debt, including fuel debt, please get in touch with our Debt Advice Team. They can make referrals to the Home Heating Support Fund with the aim of clearing any fuel related debt and provide support for managing future energy payments.

Welfare benefits

If you would like assistance with a welfare benefit enquiry, please contact our Welfare Benefits team:

Welfare Benefits Team

Social Security Scotland

There are a number of new benefits that are paid by Social Security Scotland, such as the Child Winter Heating Assistance. To find out if you are entitled to any of these new benefits, contact Social Security Scotland:

Social Security Scotland

Scottish Power

We have contacted Scottish Power, as the majority of our tenants are on the Economy 2000 tariff provided by them, to seek advice and guidance in relation to financial support they can make available to our tenants. We will provide a further update once we have received information from them.

Scottish Power has a Hardship Fund for customers with debt. This is controlled by Social Enterprise Direct, and all decisions are made independently of Scottish Power. To find out if you would qualify for this Fund please contact, in the first instance a recognised Debt Advice agency such as National Debtline on 0808 169 8780 who will advise you how to apply.

Scottish Power also have support for Prepayment Customers via their Hardship Voucher Scheme. This will allow a payment of £49 during the winter months and £30 in the summer months up to a maximum of 3 payments in a 12-month period. Repayment of the credits is not necessary via the Debt Recovery setting on the meters.

If you would like to contact Scottish Power to discuss your bill or ask about financial support, please contact them:

Other financial help that may be available

If you are worried about your finances, we would urge you to seek help from our Advice and Support Hubs, Community Advice Service or the Citizens Advice Bureau.

Winter Fuel Payment

Payment of either £100 or £300 to help pay your heating bills. This is paid automatically to those who qualify.

For more information see GOV.UK: Winter Fuel Payment.

Cold Weather Payment

Payment made if the average temperature in your area is recorded as, or forecast to be, zero degrees Celsius or below over 7 consecutive days. You'll receive £25 for each 7-day period where the weather is very cold between 01 November and 31 March.

For more information see GOV.UK: Cold Weather Payment.


Windows and door programme

Priority for replacement windows and doors has been given to our tenants living in off-gas villages and areas where homes have lower energy efficiency performance; to assist tenants who are struggling with their fuel bills.

Village Contractor Survey
Start
Survey
End
Installation
Start
Installation
End
Standburn Sidey Solutions Ltd Sep 2021 Sep 2021 Jan 2022 Jan 2022
Blackness DCL Sep 2021 Sep 2021 Mar 2022 Mar 2022
Avonbridge Sidey Solutions Ltd Sep 2021 Dec 2022 Jan 2022 May 2022
Whitecross DCL Sep 2021 Oct 2021 Apr 2022 Jul 2022
Slamannan Sidey Solutions Ltd Dec 2021 Apr 2022 Mar 2022 Sep 2022
South Alloa Sidey Solutions Ltd Mar 2021 Mar 2022 May 2022 May 2022
Torwood Sidey Solutions Ltd Mar 2022 Mar 2022 May 2022 May 2022
Limerigg Sidey Solutions Ltd 2023 2023 2023 2023
California Sidey Solutions Ltd 2023 2023 2023 2023
Letham * To be confirmed Jul 2022 Jul 2022 Oct 2022 Oct 2022

* Letham is considered a conservation area and the windows and doors will be replaced as part of a separate project.

Further information can be found at Window and Door Replacement Programme.

Feedback from tenants

Over the last few weeks, we've been asking our tenants who live in the 'Off-Gas’ villages, about their heating systems.

Of the 716 letters issued, we received a 31% response rate. Based on the response only, the results were as follows:

  • 72% were not happy with their current heating and 28% were happy.
  • 71% want Gas central heating and 29% do not want gas.
  • 69% did not want to consider a green energy solution and 31% would consider it.
  • 83% noted their preferred method of communication was by letter with 13% noting Email.

Response to Survey

GroupTotal
Responded224
Did not respond492

Are you happy with your current heating?

GroupTotal
Not happy with the current heating system162
Happy with the current heating system62

Preferred Heating Choice

GroupTotal
Gas155
ASHP64
Existing62

Do You Want Gas Central Heating?

GroupTotal
Yes155
No61

Would You Consider ASHP and PVs?

GroupTotal
Yes53
No140

Communications Strategy

The Community Engagement Co-ordinator met with a number of officers involved in the 'Alternative Heating Supply to Off-Gas Villages' project, early February 2022 and, based on discussions, agreed to develop the following communications strategy for the project.

Options for Communication

In keeping with the Scottish Social Housing Charter, a variety of methods for communication form a common theme of this strategy.

Website Information

Recognising that electronic information can be updated in real time, and since this is an ongoing developmental project spanning a few years, the central core of this strategy will be information on the Falkirk Council website.

Information on the website will include:

  • The ‘Alternative Heating Supplies to Off-Gas Villages’ project action plan.
  • Frequently asked questions/answers.
  • Welfare benefits advice and where to find help if tenants/customers affected are experiencing financial difficulty caused by rising fuel bills.
  • Contact details (including email address & telephone number) for further enquiries.

The website information, including the project action plan, will be updated on a regular basis.

Personal letter

The recent Tenant Satisfaction Survey (Oct 21 – Jan 22), told us that our tenants preferred method of being kept informed was by letter. Listening to what our tenants have told us, personal letters will be used to update those tenants affected by the project.

Two levels of letter will be used:

  • An initial, general letter to all those affected by the project, outlining the Council’s plans to address the issues around heating/fuel prices that have been highlighted.
  • A letter specific to each community on a regular basis (i.e. every few months), providing an update on issues specific to their village (i.e. some villages will receive the option of gas, whilst others won’t). This letter will, at an appropriate point, offer the tenant a choice of heating installation.

All letters sent will include a section on how the tenant can find out more information, including the website address, email address and contact telephone number for enquiries. In addition, letters will include information on where those experiencing financial hardship and/or struggling to pay fuel bills, can get additional help and support. It will also point tenants to the Tenant Talk magazine where they can occasionally find general information on the project.

Tenant Talk Magazine

Every few months, Housing Services produces a magazine for tenants, called ‘Tenant Talk’. We know from the Tenant Satisfaction Survey carried out Oct 21 – Jan 22, that this is the second most popular preferred method (after personal letter) amongst tenants, for Housing Services keeping them informed about services and decisions.

On occasions, and at the appropriate stages in time, the magazine will feature articles on the ‘Alternative Heating Supplies to Off-Gas Villages’ project, including updates on progress and future plans. For example, Carole Glass (Home Energy Strategy Officer) will write articles on the Price Cap (Spring 22 Edition); Financial Assistance, including the Warm Home Discount scheme (Summer 22 Edition) and the Priority Services Register in the Autumn/Winter Edition of the magazine.

Like personal letters, each article published in Tenant Talk will carry details of the website where tenants/customers can find out more information. The article was also provide details of the generic email address and telephone number for enquiries.

Social Media Platforms

Other forms of social media, including Facebook and Twitter, were considered. However, since the ‘Alternative Heating Supplies to Off-Gas Villages’ project is a small percentage of the wider community and relevant to specific geographical communities scattered throughout the Falkirk Council area, it is felt that social media campaigns could prove counter-productive with some communities feeling that villages affected by the project, are being given preferential treatment, whilst their communities are being left behind.

Housing Operations Role

The front-line Housing Officer plays an crucial role in communication with tenants. For this reason, the local Housing Operations Teams will be included in future discussions on the project and regular internal communication will take place between the Property & Asset Team and Housing Operations Team to keep front-line officers fully informed.

Colleagues in the Housing Operations Teams should be given details of the action plan that supports the ‘Alternative Heating Supplies to Off-Gas Villages’ project, along with details of the generic email address and telephone number to provide tenants/customers with.

Development Services Role

Development Services will be delivering the programme of works to the villages getting gas heating and those that are getting alternative green energy solutions, so it’s within their remit to advise tenants of specific timescales for the work when this is known.

Colleagues in Development Services should also be given details of the action plan that supports the ‘Alternative Heating Supplies to Off-Gas Villages’ project, along with details of the generic email address and telephone number to provide tenants with.

Housing Services recognises that effective communication is a necessary part of the ‘Alternative Heating Supplies to Off-Gas Villages’ project. It also recognises that this strategy for communication should be monitored and adapted to suit the needs of the tenants/customers affected by the project.

This Communications Strategy should be put in place with immediate effect, and discussed regularly at meetings with officers involved in the ‘Alternative Heating Supplies to Off-Gas Villages’ project.