Hundreds of tower block residents face sky high energy bills for 'ice box' flats
Residents fought to get unsafe cladding removed, but now they face steep energy bills, Consumer Editor Chris Choi reports
More than 1,000 tower block residents in England face sky-high energy bills because of the building safety crisis, ITV News has found.
Their flats have had dangerous flammable cladding removed, but not replaced, leaving their buildings without proper insulation.
Bridget Bowen, who lives in Birmingham's Islington Gates development, found service charges due to cladding problems have left her unable to afford the extra heating now needed.
Ms Bowen, who's in her 70s, told us: “I'm wearing coats, layers, a hot water bottle. It's freezing otherwise, it's like an ice box. How has it come to that?”
The block's management blames regulatory failures, while the government insists it is solving the cladding crisis. But residents in flats like Ms Bowen's say they’re getting little immediate help.
Jim Illingworth has a flat in the same Birmingham block. Cladding removal involves wrapping the development in plastic sheeting, which leaves him living in gloom, he says.
I had to use a torch when entering his home, while the temperature was 12°C. ITV News found residents across the country facing similar conditions:
Salford - in a total of 833 flats over nine blocks (Malus Court, Salix Court, Beech Court, Hornbeam Court, Whitebeam Court, Plane Court, Holme Court, Spruce Court and Thorn Court)
Ipswich - 116 flats (St Francis Tower)
London - 559 flats (New Providence Wharf)
Cardiff - 126 flats (Lydstep Flats)
Birmingham -140 flats (Islington Gates)
In each case, building management say they sympathise with the residents' plight and that improvements will happen as quickly as possible.
Almost 18 months ago, dangerous cladding was removed from the Pendleton Flats in Salford, leaving nine blocks now without the intended levels of insulation.
"Now we have to put the heating on all the time but we can't afford it... it's costing about £60/£70 a fortnight. I only get £200 a fortnight to live on, for two people," resident Robert Walsh says.
The contractors who manage Pendleton Flats say cladding replacement will start in the next few months - but could take until 2024. Contributions, from £30 a month, to cover extra energy use are hopelessly inadequate, residents told us.
Victims of the cladding scandal have felt they have had to fight every inch of the way - first for safety, then for funding and now some of them are battling for warmth. These residents are in the clutches of a safety scandal and an energy crisis - all through no fault of their own. Can it be any wonder they feel so let down?