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.”
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.