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Fuel poverty experienced by a third of households in Highland Council area

By Alan Hendry

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Households living 'off the gas grid' often struggle most to cope with fuel costs.
Households living 'off the gas grid' often struggle most to cope with fuel costs.

Fuel poverty is affecting a third of households across the Highland Council area, according to new figures.

Council leader Margaret Davidson says it shows there is a pressing need for a UK-wide review of the energy system.

The figures were presented to the local authority's corporate resources committee, giving an insight into the level of fuel poverty across the region and the difficult financial decisions facing many residents – particularly those in rural areas.

The data for Highland shows:

  • Thirty-three per cent of households in Highland are experiencing fuel poverty, compared with a national average of 24 per cent.
  • Twenty-two per cent of households in Highland are facing extreme fuel poverty, nearly double the national average of 12 per cent.

The figures are measured by the 2021 Scottish house condition report.

Energy Action Scotland stated that households living “off the gas grid" – those that are not connected to the national mains gas network – often struggle most to cope with fuel costs.

In addition, while the average UK dual fuel bill comes to £1138, Scottish consumers face an average bill of £1759 and, for those with electricity only, the figure rises to £2276.

At the end of October, the Scottish Government announced a £41 million Winter Support Fund for low-income families which includes £10m nationally to help those struggling to pay their fuel bills. Highland Council is set to receive an allocation from this fund in order to mitigate the fuel challenges faced by residents in the region.

Councillor Davidson said: “The current situation clearly demonstrates the pressing need for a UK-wide, strategic review of our energy supply, market and infrastructure.”

The local authority's welfare support team provides free, impartial, confidential support on fuel insecurity concerns, in addition to offering assistance to check eligibility and submit a claim for benefits and entitlements. The team can be contacted by phone on 0800 090 1004 or by email at welfare.support@highland.gov.uk.

In addition, Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB) has a specialist team of energy advisers who can undertake energy checks designed to help with reducing domestic fuel bills. CAB energy advisers can be contacted on 01463 237664.

Funding is also available from the Scottish Government, Energy Company Obligation (ECO) and Warm Homes Fund for those looking to put energy efficiency measures in place within their home – such as adding loft, cavity or external wall insulation.

Details can be found on the Highland Council website.

Warm home discounts equivalent to £140 a year off household energy bills are available from some energy suppliers for those on low incomes. Households are advised to contact their energy supplier to check eligibility.

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