RESIDENTS who are volunteering their own time to run a warm hub in a development for the vulnerable and elderly are “heartbroken” over energy bill hikes.

South Essex Homes is increasing costs by 104 per cent for heating and lighting in communal areas in its blocks of flats across Southend.

Residents living at the Yantlet development in London Road, Leigh, say they are “devastated” the costs of heating communal areas is being transferred onto them.

A group of volunteers have set up a warm hub, serving a roast lunch everyone Sunday, to help those who are struggling with the cost-of-living crisis.

But as the hub is held in a communal space, the residents will now be facing increased bills to keep it running.

Karen Berry, 65, who has lived in the block run by South Essex Homes for 13 years, said: “The news has devastated everyone, we have worked hard to make the warm hub a welcoming place for everyone, and it is now going to start costing us an arm and a leg.

“There was one resident who is living on bags of crisps, and this is probably the only hot meal they have all week."

Ms Berry, who is on Universal Credit and cannot work due to health issues, added: “We have been blindsided and it is heart-breaking for everybody. We were warned to put money aside to cover the shortfall, how can people put money aside when they don’t have enough to get by as it is?”

The housing association is planning to increase heating costs by £12.63 and service charge costs by £7.85 per week for all residents living in sheltered accommodation or hostels.

A spokesman for South Essex Homes said: “The increase in energy costs is a national issue affecting every household up and down the country, and those within sheltered housing schemes are no different.  Over the past year, the cost of heating the communal areas in the large residential buildings we manage has substantially increased. 

“We fully appreciate that times are tough for everyone at the moment, however, it is not possible for us to absorb this actual cost increase and we need to recover the additional spend at each building from the residents who live in them.”