More fuel poverty calls from government

South Scotland MSP Claudia Beamish has called for renewed focus on fuel poverty following a progress report from the Scottish Government.

Scottish Labour led a debate on the issue in Parliament this week following publication of the Scottish Fuel Poverty Forum’s final report on the review of the Scottish Government’s Fuel Poverty Strategy.

The report concluded that there was no room for complacency, identifying that a recent modest fall in fuel poverty was due primarily to a period of energy price stability. The report highlighted specific concerns about off-grid and remote areas and stated that these households need to be better served by Government programmes.

The latest figures for Dumfries & Galloway, which are averaged out over three years, show that total fuel poverty fell slightly from 26,000 in the period 2009-11 to 25,000 in the period 2010-12.

However, these latest figures do not take account of recent energy price rises. The Scottish Government has previously calculated that for every 5% increase in energy prices, an additional 46,000 households across Scotland are pushed into fuel poverty.

Commenting on the statistics, Claudia Beamish MSP said:

“The Fuel Poverty Forum’s report demonstrates that fuel poverty continues to be a significant concern, particularly in rural areas.

“While the figures for the region show a slight improvement in the last year, I am concerned that they do not tell the whole story.

“These figures take no account of soaring energy costs across the country which are hitting families hard and forcing people into fuel poverty.

“Against this backdrop it is hugely disappointing that the Scottish Government has underspent its budget to tackle fuel poverty and is cutting the budget in the coming year.

“Rural areas of Dumfries and Galloway face particular challenges where homes are often off grid and hard to heat.

“These figures reinforce the need for concerted action by the Scottish Government if they are serious about meeting their target to eradicate fuel poverty by 2016. Fuel poverty is a disgrace which is why Scottish Labour backs an energy price freeze and a reform of the energy market to break up the ‘Big 6’ energy companies. It is disappointing that the Scottish Government has refused to back this approach.”