Community / Renewed attempt to curb high levels of fuel poverty in isles

NORTHERN Isles MP Alistair Carmichael is supporting yet another legislative attempt to get more government support to those who live in fuel poverty and who are to be worst hit by recent and future energy price hikes.

The Orkney and Shetland MP yesterday co-sponsored the cold climate allowance bill which could become a pathway to reducing fuel poverty if it finds government support.

The legislative initiative is led by former SNP MP for Kirkcaldy, Neale Hanvey, who defected to the Alba party in March this year.

The bill, introduced into the parliamentary system on Tuesday, aims to introduce a cold climate allowance to make additional monetary payments to all those in receipt of the state pension and other social security benefits during the winter months.

Under the bill, the UK would be split into four climatic zones, with eligible recipients receiving a higher rate of allowance depending on their location.

Isles MP Alistair Carmichael.

Orkney and Shetland residents, together with people in the Western Isles, Highland, Grampian, Tayside, would receive an additional £45.05 per week over a 17-week period from December to March.

Carmichael said he was under no illusion that the bill would not become law unless the government starts taking the issue of fuel poverty and the real hardships that is attached to it seriously.

“Versions of this proposal have been debated in past years and backed by MPs on all sides of parliament – at a time when household bills are rising and the cost of living is on every family’s agenda it may be the moment for the government to consider this plan again,” he said.

“As with the idea of the isles tariff and other similar proposals, this bill amounts to a recognition that fuel poverty does not strike all parts of the country evenly.

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“Support measures like the winter fuel payment, while beneficial, are too broad to eliminate the scourge of fuel poverty on their own. Targeted support is the right approach to take – and ministers should take the ideas within this bill seriously.”

Earlier this month, Citizens Advice Scotland published research showing that more than one in three people in in the country find energy bills unaffordable.

According to the latest Scottish house condition survey 31 per cent of households in Shetland live in fuel poverty, which means they spend more than 10 per cent of their available income on appropriately heating their home.

Shetland News has seen local electricity bills in the region of £300 to £500 per month. One pensioner, who is ‘fully electric’ in an insulated three bedroom house, is required to pay almost half her state pension to SSE to keep the lights on and stay warm.

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