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Fuel poverty crisis 'even worse that today's figures suggest'

3 Sep 2011

Fuel poverty crisis 'even worse that today's figures suggest'

Citizens Advice Scotland have said that fuel poverty in Scotland is even worse than is shown in the figures that have been revealed today, and is leading to ‘real human misery’.

Figures revealed in a parliamentary answer to MSP Jamie Hepburn show that fuel bills took up 14% of Scots’ household income in 2009 – a rise from 8% in 2004. But CAS say that the increases in fuel bills since 2009 have piled even more pressure on family budgets.

CAS Chief Executive Lucy McTernan said,

“Scottish CABs see people every day who are struggling with their finances. And most of them now report the rise in fuel costs as one of the main factors. CAB advisers see the real human misery that exists behind these statistics.

“Indeed we feel the problem is, if anything, under-estimated by the figures revealed today. The 2009 figures are the most recent that are available, but of course they take no account of the trends that have happened since then. Gas and electricity bills have risen considerably since 2009 – including substantial hikes in the last few months. And household incomes have certainly not kept pace with these rises.

“We also know that fuel poverty is worse in Scotland than it is elsewhere across the UK. A report by the UK government in July showed that Scottish fuel poverty is running at 32.7% while the rate in the UK as a whole is 20.1%.*

“So with one third of Scottish households unable to afford their fuel bills – and those bills still rising as household incomes fall – this is a growing crisis that cannot be ignored any longer. It affects people in every city, town and village in Scotland.”

Lucy McTernan also talks about the real impact fuel poverty has on people, as seen every day by CAB advisers across Scotland. She says,

“People who are struggling financially face a very stark choice when faced with these high fuel bills. They either skip meals in order to pay the fuel bill instead. Or they take out a loan, or use their credit card – and so get into debt they will be unable to repay.

“Anyone who is concerned about their finances can get free, confidential and impartial advice from their local CAB. We don’t have magic a wand unfortunately and so we can’t change the reality of high fuel bills or low incomes. But we can advise you on how to best manage your finances, and perhaps intercede on your behalf with the fuel companies if you are in dispute with them.

“But in the longer term, this is a problem that requires political action. We call on the governments in both London and Edinburgh to make clear what they intend to do to to help people who are in fuel poverty now, and to halt the growth of the problem before it affects even more people.”

For more information, interviews etc. please contact Tony Hutson on 07774 751655. NB This is the number of the CAS Press Office, for use by journalists only. If you are a member of the public and and looking for CAB advice, please contact your local bureau.

* This figure was contained in a report released on 14 July this year, by the UK Dept of Energy and Climate Change.

ENDS

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