Citizens Advice Scotland (CAS) have said too many people will suffer from fuel poverty this Christmas, due to the ‘double whammy’ of excessively cold weather and unusually high fuel charges. They have called for a concerted effort from governments and fuel companies to make sure that 2011 is the year fuel poverty is abolished in Scotland.
CAS Chief Executive Lucy McTernan said today,
“One third of Scots are now officially living in fuel poverty – that is completely unacceptable. We are on the verge of the year 2011 and surely in this day and age nobody in Scotland should be living in that level of distress, yet one in three of our neighbours are. And many more are living just above that level.
“CAB advisers across Scotland have reported to us that many people are so worried about their fuel bills that they are going without food in order to keep the heating on. Others are planning to spend the Christmas holiday period living more or less in one room, so they don’t have to pay to heat the whole house. We’re hearing of too many vulnerable people – including pensioners, sick people and families with young children – who are sitting shivering in their homes this Christmas. Many of them are suffering adverse health problems as a result.
“There is a particular ‘double whammy’ in operation at the moment. The recent rises in gas and electricity charges for consumers have been particularly high, while the cold weather we saw last week was unusually bad, even for this time of year, and of course it is predicted to return again over the holiday period. This means people have had their heating on higher and for longer – particularly those who were unable to get to work and had to stay at home.
“We need a long-term strategy to sort this out, as well as short-term measures to help people who are struggling right now. For the long term, governments and power companies need to get together to make sure price hikes don’t get out of control. We can’t have a situation where fuel bills continue to increase in ways which take no account of the economic circumstances under which people are living.
“But those who are struggling in fuel poverty right now need more urgent solutions. Sadly the ‘double whammy’ of higher prices and colder weather means that the gas and electricity bills we receive in the New Year will be much higher than usual. As consumers, we all need to anticipate that, so we don’t get a nasty surprise when the bill pops through the letterbox in January or February.
“So we urge people to keep an eye on how much fuel they are using, and make sure they know how they are going to pay those bills when they do arrive. If you can’t set some money aside, contact the fuel company to discuss how to stage your payment. Your local CAB can help you do this, and will also be able to offer advice on any financial help that may be available to you.”
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