A MOTION by Lerwick South councillor Cecil Smith to introduce a £300 winter fuel payment to all pensioners in Shetland was defeated in the council chamber on Wednesday morning.
However Shetland Islands Council did agree to consider targeting some of its reserves to those suffering fuel poverty and in urgent need of extra help.
Leading the charge against the move, Shetland North member Alastair Cooper said “this was not the time to do this” reminding his fellow councillors that they had just decided to close a junior high school to save £700,000 a year.
He was supported by north isles member Laura Baisley, who described councillor Smith’s motion as “an astonishing idea”.
“I am amazed to see this here. I didn’t know we had this sort of money for discretionary grants,” she said.
Councillor Smith had argued that people would struggle to keep warm during a Shetland winter, and added that quite a few of those were living in council owned property.
He was supported by Shetland South councillor Allison (Flea) Duncan who said that not every elderly person had the benefit of a superannuation pension.
Quite a few were living on an “inappropriate state pension” in an island community at the “periphery of the arctic circle with a wind chill second to none”, he said.
But the majority in the council chamber felt that a more targeted approach was needed, as it is not just pensioners who suffer from fuel poverty and handing out universal benefits would not help to resolve the problem of poorly insulated homes.
They agreed to task officers to produce a report for the next meeting of the full council, in February, to outline the extent of the problem of fuel poverty in the isles, and also to identify individual cases in urgent need of assistance.
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