Call for action to tackle fuel poverty

A fresh call has been made for government intervention in the Western Isles to alleviate the crippling levels of fuel poverty being experienced by many of its residents.

A new report by the Energy Advisory Service, a Government-funded initiative, revealed that not only was the area the worst in Scotland when it comes to disposable income spent on heating fuel — it was also the worst in Western Europe.

In total, 71 per cent of households were recognised as suffering from fuel poverty and 18 per cent were in extreme fuel poverty. But the situation is so severe in the islands that a new category had to be introduced where up to a third of a household’s entire income is spent just on heating fuel. More than one in 10 houses fell into this category.

Councillor Angus McCormack, chair of the Western Isles Poverty Action Group, said: “Levels of fuel poverty in the Western Isles are on the increase. We have gone from 60 per cent in recent years to 70 per cent and it is a scandal because it means that nothing is being done to address this issue, by either the Scottish or UK governments.

“They are not taking this issue seriously enough. What we need is funding specifically to target this issue.”

Mr McCormack said there three things which the Scottish Government could do as a matter of priority, and which would go a long way to addressing fuel poverty levels in the islands.

He said: “One, they could introduce a ‘living wage’ because a lot of people in the islands who are in fuel poverty have a member of the household who is working but on low wages.

“Two, they need to offer a lot more money for the hard-to-treat houses we have in the islands with poor insulation. And, thirdly, we need a lot more money for the construction of new affordable homes in the Outer Hebrides.”

Mr McCormack said any new strategy should target families first and then the elderly.

“We have the data, we know who these people are,” he said. “It’s just a case of getting the funding to the right places so we can finally do something about it.”

Editorial — 29.8.14