I write with regard to the motion that has been lodged for discussion at this week’s Full Council meeting to re-introduce a blanket winter fuel payment to all individuals over the age of 65. With a likely cost of circa £500,000, I believe a blanket grant to be poorly targeted and does not represent best use of resources.
I am the first to acknowledge the very significant fuel poverty in Shetland and it should certainly be high on the political agenda, however what is required is a long term strategy and targeted assistance to those that need it.
Nationally with less than a quarter of pensioners actually fuel poor (source: Energy Action Scotland) I fear that this grant while well intentioned does not result in equity and value for money and ensure that those needing assistance get it. Key among the reasons for the higher incidence of fuel poverty in rural areas is inefficient housing and higher energy costs, neither of which suddenly appear when you turn 65, and neither of which will be addressed by one-off payments each year.
With energy prices projected to significantly increase in the coming years it is crucial that the efficiency of housing is treated. The council already has its own Fuel Poverty Grant scheme to do such and if this motion is lodged with the intention of tackling fuel poverty why not divert funds to assisting householders known to be in fuel poverty and increase the efficiency of their homes?
More money is certainly needed due to the hard to treat nature of housing stock in Shetland. The benefit of investing in efficiency improvements brings year on year benefit to householders in terms of lower heating demand and thus costs while also supporting local installation firms.
Yes introduce measures to address fuel poverty but do it in an appropriate manner.