A WOMAN in Dyserth has said the debts she is struggling to repay to her energy provider will mean no Christmas celebrations for her or her husband, who she acts as full-time carer for.

Shereen Harrison changed provider to ScottishPower more than two years ago, but said she has been told she is now almost £2,000 in debt with the company.

Billing errors also led to Mrs Harrison being advised that her payments should be £200 per week, for which ScottishPower has apologised and amended.

Mrs Harrison, who has lodged seven complaints to ScottishPower since May, said she has been left struggling to make ends meet while caring for husband Stephen, who suffers from a number of medical conditions and receives oxygen therapy.

She said: “We changed to ScottishPower over two years ago. There was no bill for the first eight months, even though I was phoning up all the time. When the bill did arrive, we were nearly £1,700 in debt.

“We went through StepChange Debt Charity, got advice from Citizens Advice Bureau who is still working with us, got the warm heating grant last year and reapplied again for this year, too, and were granted the Hardship Fund through ScottishPower, which brought the bill down to £874.

“We have been paying everything the ScottishPower team has told us to on a regular basis.

“We have been paying £240 a month now every month without fail for a year, at least. This doesn’t seem to be enough, as the debt has gone up to £1889.72.

“A few times, ScottishPower was taking extra payments out of my bank as I had a direct debit set up with them. I have had to change this now to a standing order.

“I have never been in debt for 28 years dealing with bills until I changed to ScottishPower, and I did my best not to be in debt then either.

“ScottishPower would like £200 a week for electricity, which would mean that they are trying to say we use £10,400 worth of electricity in a year.

“Our Universal Credit wouldn’t even cover this, so God knows where we are supposed to get that kind of money and pay other bills and put food on the table.

“Yes, the bills are all paid, but trying to get food on the table is a different matter. We’re just making sure that all the bills: electricity, water rates, TV licence, life insurance, home insurance, etc. are all paid for before any food shopping.”

Mrs Harrison added that she believes the stress of the situation is having a detrimental impact on her husband’s already poor health, and has already sought the help of the likes of Ombudsmen, Utility Warehouse, councillors, and her MP, James Davies.

Indeed, Dr Davies expressed his support for Mrs Harrison and hoped for ‘an appropriate and supportive’ resolution to the matters.

He said: “I was concerned to learn that Shereen recently received a utility bill in excess of £1,600.

“It would appear that ScottishPower have made an error in their billing processes and I have asked them to investigate this charge and then work to resolve the matter in an appropriate and supportive way.”

As well as not being able to celebrate Christmas, Mr and Mrs Harrison were also unable to mark their wedding anniversary last week, and have had to extremely limit their use of electrical appliances at home.

Such is the difficulty of their situation, in fact, that Mrs Harrison said her husband has considered claiming his life insurance, which she will not allow him to do.

Mrs Harrison added: “One month, I went into overdraft and shouldn’t have, so I got in touch with ScottishPower. They couldn’t reimburse me that money because it had already gone on to the debt.

“I had to try and find the money somewhere, and thankfully, I had a family member who leant me some, so I could sort it out and pay back so much a week.

“We are not celebrating Christmas this year at all as we can’t afford it; no Christmas meal, no decorations, no presents for family or friends, not even a card.

“My husband’s health requires him to be on oxygen 24/7. Stress is not good for him as he has heart failure.

“He’s got a whole list of other illnesses: diabetes, arthritis, gout, depression, he’s blind in one eye, he’s only got half a lung on either side. His health recently, I would say, has deteriorated through all the stress.

“We are struggling to even put food on the table every day, even though my husband has certain dietary requirements.

“My husband has given me an ultimatum: the heating stays on and his oxygen goes off, or his oxygen stays on and the heating goes off.

“He is considering claiming his life insurance, which I will not allow, and I don’t think it’s fair he is being made to think this way.

“I’m not able to do all the things I am supposed to be doing, like the laundry and cleaning the house, as we are limiting the usage of electrical appliances to try and reduce the usage, but we don’t use many appliances, anyway.

“We’ve done everything we can. We’ve bent over backwards to sort this out, but for some reason, they won’t listen to us, stating they we’ve been overcharged.

“We’ve been fighting this for nearly two-and-a-half years. We’re sat here at the moment with no heating on and the temperature outside is freezing. I just don’t know where else to go.

“We celebrated our wedding anniversary on Saturday and did nothing. We didn’t get each other a card, a present, anything, but at the end of the day, we don’t need those kind of things because we’ve got each other.”

In response to Mrs Harrison’s comments, ScottishPower said that it accepted there had previously been errors in her billing, and are working with her and Citizens Advice Bureau to try to resolve the issues regarding her outstanding payments.

A ScottishPower spokesperson said: “We’re currently working with Mrs Harrison and the Citizen Advice Bureau’s Extra Help Unit to explore any further support available as her monthly payments are insufficient to cover the costs of the energy being used, and there are also outstanding arrears owed on the account.

“We fully accept there have been errors with her billing - due to incorrect meter information for the property, there was a delay in her initial bill being issued; and when we recently issued a payment card, at Mrs Harrison’s request, this incorrectly generated a letter advising her payments should be £200 per week.

“We’re sorry for these mistakes and have corrected them.

“We do empathise with Mrs Harrison’s situation and are doing everything we can to help – including removing almost £900 of the original outstanding balance through our Hardship Fund, sending out a Customer Liaison Officer to check energy use and equipment, and moving her on to a better value tariff based on this.

“While her case is ongoing, we’ve agreed to set payments at £200 per month and we will continue to monitor this in conjunction with the Extra Help Unit.”