Fuel poverty report shows isles problem “endemic”

Comhairle nan Eilean Siar have called on national politicians to urgently address the scandal of growing fuel poverty in the Western Isles, following the publication of yet another report which underlines the “endemic” situation in the islands.
The Scottish Government’s House Condition Survey of 2013 shows that 62 per cent of households in the islands are classed as being in fuel poverty — defined as where 10 per cent of income is spent on keeping warm — compared to a national average of 36 per cent.
Edinburgh ministers recently announced funding assistance of £1.53 million for the islands to deal with fuel poverty. It came as part of a national package of £60 million and, while welcomed, was described as not going far enough to meet the needs of the islands.
Now the council have seized on the government’s own report to strengthen the case for action to address the situation in the islands. The report echoes the findings of local housing agency Tighean Innse Gall.
Comhairle leader Angus Campbell said: “These figures again show the shocking levels of fuel poverty being experienced by island households and indeed research carried out at a local level for the comhairle suggests the scale of the problem is even higher than that which is reported within the official statistics.
“The comhairle and its partners have put in place a Fuel Poverty Action Plan which highlights the need for action across three strands: energy efficiency, income maximisation and fuel costs. It is vital that islanders are able to access energy information, advice and interventions which are tailored to local circumstances and, given the disproportionately high electricity tariffs which we believe are being experienced by many households, I would again urge SSE to look at taking concrete action to reduce the electricity costs paid by island consumers.”
SSE chief executive Alistair Phillips-Davies wrote to Mr Campbell to outline the actions the company are taking in advising TIG on how to reduce electricity bills for consumers. However, both the company, and the government, have been urged to do more.
Councillor Angus McCormack, chair of the Western Isles Poverty Action Group, said: “These initiatives are welcome. However, they do not address the serious problem of fuel poverty in the Western Isles.”
Fuel poverty in the Western Isles is endemic. By imposing a two-pence surcharge on island consumers, SSE is knowingly causing fuel poverty. This is not acceptable. Nor is it acceptable to suggest that the initiatives to be pursued via TIG will have any immediate effect, nor will they apply to more than a few hundred people when thousands are already in fuel poverty.”