Sheriff finds in favour of tenant

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A sheltered housing resident has accused Shetland Charitable Trust of perpetuating fuel poverty after a legal challenge lodged against him failed.

Martyn Fisher says the trust’s withdrawal of electricity subsidies for disabled folk has resulted in vulnerable people struggling with major hikes in their heating bills.

Martyn Fisher

Martyn Fisher outside the “white house” SIC headquarters at Lerwick’s North Ness. Photo: Dave Donaldson

It comes after the trust pulled out of a deal it had with Shetland Islands Council to help people in sheltered accommodation afford their electricity.

The subsidy was axed last year as both the council and trust sought to make savings. The trust believed it could save £25,000 by removing the subsidy. 

The SIC subsequently contacted affected ten­ants by letter informing them of the changes and asking them to agree to new lease agreements.
 
But earlier this year it got fed up waiting on Mr Fisher to sign his name to the terms. The council mounted a legal challenge against the Bigton resident, issuing a writ and warrant for a hearing at Lerwick Sheriff Court.
 
For his part, Mr Fisher still refused to sign up. He argued the council should have been chasing the charitable trust through the courts for pulling out of the deal it had held with the SIC. Now, following legal arguments, sheriff Philip Mann has ruled against the council’s claims.
 
In a strongly-written judgment he described the SIC’s application as “incompetent” –  a legal term which refers to evidence deemed in viola­tion of legislative rules, or having no bearing on the case.
 
Mr Fisher said he was “over the moon” after receiving the seven-page ruling from the court. But he warned the trust was responsible for placing people in fuel poverty.
 
“I’m over the moon,” he said. “I’m on cloud nine. It’s unbelievable. I don’t think the charitable trust is aware that they have put a lot of people into fuel poverty with what they have done here.
 
“I’ve always said, all along the way, that it is up to the council now to go and take action against the charitable trust over what they have done. It is the charitable trust that has changed the status quo, and it should have been the charitable trust that was in court, and not me.
 
“They have put quite a lot of people in fuel poverty. I’ve heard that from quite a number of places.”
 
He said he would be willing to sit down with the trust to help seek an amicable agreement which could help benefit sheltered housing residents.
 
“I’m quite willing to go down and look for solutions with the charitable trust, and offer to do that. They have just abandoned us, and they should maybe set up a small charity to help people.”
 
He insisted he would have been left well out of pocket had the sheriff not ruled in his favour.
 
“It would have practically doubled my electricity bill. It is a major problem,” he said.
 
Sheriff Philip Mann was able to reach his decision despite only hearing from the council’s legal representative last week – Mr Fisher, who had not managed to arrange legal representation, was ill on the day of the hearing anyway, and was unable to attend court.
 
Much of the focus centred on a so-called clause 1.6 contained within Mr Fisher’s tenancy agreement. The clause related to a weekly £14.45 service charge which was previously paid by the SIC after receiving the trust subsidy.
 
But sheriff Mann concluded that – with the subsidy now axed – the authority sought to pass the burden on to Mr Fisher, despite claims from the SIC’s legal representative Keith Adam that the council wanted to decrease the amount payable by Mr Fisher.
 
In his written judgment sheriff Mann described the council’s claims as “disingenuous” and concluded the application by the SIC was “incompetent”.
 
“If the applicants truly wished to reduce the charges payable by the respondent they could simply have undertaken to him that they would no longer rely on clause 1.6 of the tenancy agreement. But it is perfectly clear from the terms of the application that that is not what this is all about.
 
“It is explained in the application that the ‘service charge’ referred to in clause 1.6 of the tenancy agreement equates to the net amount which the tenant is expected to pay for electricity charges paid on his behalf by the applicants [the council] after receipt by them of a subsidy from a charitable trust.
 
“It is further explained that that subsidy has been withdrawn and the applicants have changed their policy.
 
“What the applicants seek to achieve is that clause 1.6 will be removed and that henceforth the respondent will pay the full electricity charges direct to the electricity supplier.
 
“The net result of what the applicants are seeking to do is put the respondent into the position where he will be paying more, not less. It is disingenuous to suggest otherwise.”
 
Trust chairman Bobby Hunter declined to comment when contacted by The Shetland Times.

About Ryan Taylor

Ryan Taylor is a reporter at The Shetland Times

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2 comments

  1. Ali Inkster

    The CT can’t afford to help those it was set up to help when it is paying out £millions to Viking Energy.

    Reply
  2. David Spence

    I think the Council and the Scottish Government should cap, if not have far stronger regulations, put against the 6 main power companies who have blatantly hiked up prices well above the rate of inflation, and have put thousands of people into a situation of heat or feed in respect to their income.

    If memory serves me correctly, the vile Tory Governments answer to tackling the ridiculous charges the main power companies were putting onto people was to change legislation slightly where the consumer would be better off by a whole £50 on their annual bill. This was instantly wiped out by the power companies raising their charges by 6.6% to counteract this so-called saving the Government instigated.

    The 6 main power companies know they have the monopoly, and as for so-called market forces giving people a greater choice and saving……..it is nothing but a joke and insult to everybody forced to pay well over the odds for their power…………..and please do not say ‘ this is why cleaner, greener energy should be more invested (the 6 main power companies excuse for much of the increases they have put upon the consumer)…….if Viking Energy is anything to go by……Shetland will be considerably worse off.

    Reply

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