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Local Government Committee calls for stronger targets to help those in extreme fuel poverty

Local Government Committee calls for stronger targets to help those in extreme fuel poverty

Elderly lady heating her hands by a fire - Image credit: PA Images

A Holyrood committee has called for the Scottish Government to do more to help those who are struggling to heat their homes.

The Local Government and Communities Committee has supported the Scottish Government’s fuel poverty bill.

However, the committee has called for additional measures to put an end to thousands of people lacking the means to keep their homes warm.

The bill sets a target of no more than five per cent of households living in fuel poverty by 2040, after a previous target, to eradicate fuel poverty in Scotland completely by 2016, was not met.

Following an inquiry into the issue, the committee called for a separate target to focus on people living in ‘extreme fuel poverty’, who are spending more than 20 per cent of their income on fuel.

The cross-party group of MSPs wants this to be included in the bill as a separate target.  

As part of its inquiry, the committee heard evidence from people living in Dundee and the Western Isles, where concerns were raise that the bill may not reflect the reality of living in islands and remote areas, where there are higher living and travel costs and it is urging the government to make sure this is taken into account.

In its report the committee also raised concerns about inadequate works carried out under UK-based energy efficiency schemes as well as reports that there had not been enough support from the UK Government to provide redress for those who received defective repairs.

Committee convener James Dornan said: “We know that Scotland is an energy-rich country, yet during our evidence we talked to people who faced the impossible decision of either feeding their families or heating their homes.

“The stark reality is that over a quarter of households in Scotland still face extreme difficulties heating their homes, and this can rise to well over double that in rural and island communities. 

“The committee welcomes the Fuel Poverty Bill’s core purpose, which could make a real difference to the life of thousands of Scottish families.

“However, the longer-term ambition should be the eradication of fuel poverty.

“We have outlined a number of ways to improve the Fuel Poverty Bill to ensure that Scotland can better tackle fuel poverty issues, so that no one has to struggle in cold, draughty and sometimes unliveable homes in the future.”

The findings were welcomed by consumer group Citizens Advice Scotland (CAS).

Responding to the Local Government and Communities Committee report, CAS energy spokesperson Emma Grant McColm said: “It is unacceptable in 21st century Scotland that people should have to choose between food and heating their home.

“We are campaigning for the bill to recognise the fact that those Scots living in remote rural areas face higher living costs, including fuel costs.

“We know that over half of all Scottish households which rely upon electric heating are estimated to be in fuel poverty, and many of those homes tend to be in rural areas, off the gas grid.”

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Read the most recent article written by Jenni Davidson - The Holyrood baby: More likely to live in poverty now than the day she was born

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