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OFGEM review must address Scotland’s fuel poverty crisis

Citizens Advice Scotland (CAS) have welcomed OFGEM’s proposed review of energy prices increases, and have called on them to investigate in particular the ‘shocking’ levels of fuel poverty in Scotland.

The call comes as the Scottish Government revealed figures which showed that as many as one third of Scots were in fuel poverty - the main reason cited being the recent increases in fuel bills.

CAS Head of Social Policy, Susan McPhee, said,

“We don’t use words like ‘crisis’ very often, but when you see that one in three Scots are living without the ability to heat their homes this winter, then it is difficult to think of another word that is more appropriate – particularly when the trend is going sharply upwards and shows no signs of being reversed.

“If as a nation we are comfortable with one third of our people living in fuel poverty, what then would be an unacceptable figure? Half? Three quarters? It is particularly shocking that the people worst affected are those who are most vulnerable - including pensioners, unemployed people, sick and disabled Scots.

“We are in the aftershock of a severe recession. Jobs are being lost all over Scotland and incomes are falling. Yet nothing is being done to slow down the amounts people are required to spend in order to maintain a decent standard of living. It’s high time this was tackled. In-action is not an option.

“We call for four things today:

  1. The energy companies to accept publicly that the current situation is untenable and agree that they are going to co-operate fully with OFGEM to address it.
  2. OFGEM must leave no stone unturned in their efforts to force an urgent solution that will address the crisis – and in particular they should make clear that they will take into account Scotland’s colder climate.
  3. The UK government must monitor this situation very closely and be ready to impose regulations upon the fuel companies if they cannot come to an acceptable agreement themselves.
  4. Finally we call upon all parties in Scotland to pledge that they will make proper home insulation a priority in housing development in future, and that they will continue to fund the Energy Assistance Package and Home Insulation Schemes if they are in government after the next Scottish Parliament Election.

“Many people have a role to play in adderessing this crisis in the longer term, but first and foremost the immediate responsibility is for the fuel companies to stop hiking prices in the way they have in the last few years. We start from the principle that no-one in Scotland should be suffering the winter without adequate heating. It’s as simple as that.

“Meanwhile if people are struggling to pay their fuel bills they should contact their local CAB, for free, impartial and confidential advice on this and on all financial matters.”

CAS spokespersons are available for interview, as are local CAB spokespersons throughout Scotland. To arrange this, please contact Tony Hutson on 0131 550 1010.

Notes to editors:

  • Scottish CABs collectively helped with 16,588 utility issues in 2009/10 – that is 45 for every day of the year.
  • A CAS study last year found that 2 in 5 of those who had been to a Scottish CAB with a debt problem had admitted to switching of their heating in order to pay off their debts.