21st September 2018
Established 1872. Online since 1996.

Fuel poverty figures wanted to aid council’s case

The council is carrying out a survey of all households in a renewed bid to gauge levels of fuel poverty.

It believes Holyrood statistics suggesting 43 per cent of isles residents are fuel poor are wide of the mark.

The authority hopes to argue the case for higher levels of Scottish government funding if it can show a greater percentage of fuel-poor homes. More accurate figures could also be used to lobby energy suppliers in the hope of securing fairer tariffs.

Letters have been dispatched across the isles from manager of the SIC’s estate operations, Carl Symons, together with a far-reaching list of questions on household heating, electricity and insulation.

“Scottish government figures suggest that 43 per cent of all Shetland homes are in what is called fuel poverty,” the letter states.

“If you spend more than 10 per cent of your household income on heating and lighting your house to an adequate standard throughout then you are ‘fuel poor’.

“We suspect that the figure for Shetland may actually be higher than 43 per cent, and we would like to do what we can to help.”

Mr Symons adds: “We intend to use the information collected to support our request to Scottish government for more funding to help tackle fuel poverty in Shetland.

“We will also use the information to lobby energy suppliers for positive changes in tariffs and processes.”

Michael Stout:  "Meaningful saving”.

Michael Stout: “We need to understand clearly how people in Shetland are affected by rising energy costs”.

Chairman of the SIC’s environment and transport committee, Michael Stout, said: “I’d encourage all those households who have received this information to return their completed survey back to us.

“We’ll treat all individual information in confidence and it will give us accurate data on the overall picture of fuel poverty in Shetland. We need to understand clearly how people in Shetland are affected by rising energy costs so that we can make the case for resources to help tackle the problem.”

It follows last month’s Tackling Inequalities Commission, which heard efforts to tackle fuel poverty had been hampered by rises in energy prices.

Figures released at the time highlighted a 37 per cent increase in energy prices between 2010 and 2013.

Commissioners also believed that energy schemes which aimed to help improve houses are mainly geared towards urban areas, with identical packages of improvement being delivered across large swathes of housing estates on a massive scale.

That came against a background of rising living costs in the isles – said to be 40 per cent higher than elsewhere in the country – and a benefit system which failed to recognise the extra challenges of living in a remote or rural area.

Commissioners believe £20,000 is typically needed to take a householder in the isles out of fuel poverty. But even the national scheme which works best for Shetland offers a maximum grant of £7,500.

A survey in 2013 by the Citizens Advice Bureau of 468 homes showed 52 per cent of respondents believed their homes required better insulation. Forty-six per cent left rooms unheated, while over 50 per cent had cut back on essential items in order to pay for fuel.

The latest survey has been sent out with a reply paid envelope, to be returned by 19th November. Anyone who has any queries on the survey, or who hasn’t received a survey by post, can contact the council’s energy help desk on 01595 744179.

About Ryan Taylor

Ryan Taylor has worked as a reporter since 1995, and has been at The Shetland Times since 2007, covering a wide variety of news topics. Before then he reported for other newspapers in the Highlands, where he was raised, and in Fife, where he began his career with DC Thomson. He also has experience in broadcast journalism with Grampian Television. He has lived in Shetland since 2002, where he harbours an unhealthy interest in old cars and motorbikes.

View other stories by »

Your Comment

Please note, it is the policy of The Shetland Times to publish comments and letters from named individuals only. Both forename and surname are required.

Comments are moderated. Contributors must observe normal standards of decency and tolerance for the opinions of others.

The views expressed are those of contributors and not of The Shetland Times.

The Shetland Times reserves the right to decline or remove any contribution without notice or stating reason.

Comments are limited to 200 words but please email longer articles or letters to editorial@shetlandtimes.co.uk for consideration and include a daytime telephone number and your address. If emailing information in confidence please put "Not for publication" in both the subject line and at the top of the main message.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.