Island fuel poverty survey shock

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The number of people on the islands living in fuel poverty is rising fast according to a survey, despite pledges to eradicate it in Scotland by 2016.

Carried out by The Energy Advisory Service (TEAS), the Western Isles’ local energy agency, the survey shows seven out of every ten people on the islands are living in fuel poverty, spending more than 10% of their income on fuel.

This is significantly more than the national average, which stands at 27%, and shows the rate of fuel poverty in the Western Isles is rising fast, increasing by 18% since the Scottish House Condition Survey in 2009-11.

Meanwhile 18% of households are living in severe fuel poverty, spending 20% of their income of fuel, while 11% of people in the Isles are classed as living in extreme fuel poverty, forking out a massive 30% of earnings on keeping warm according to the results.

The survey, which will be published in full later this summer, places the Western Isles firmly in pole position for having the worst fuel poverty rate in not just Britain but the whole of Western Europe.

A postal questionnaire was sent to all homes in the Outer Hebrides, of which more than 2,000 were returned.

The results were presented to councillors at the Environment and Protective Services Committee on Tuesday this week, and led to calls for urgent action on the issue and control over the design of fuel poverty schemes.

“This is a very serious situation we find ourselves in,” said Cllr Angus McCormack.

He pointed out that millions of pounds has been spent on fuel poverty measures in the Western Isles, yet the problem not only persists, but is quickly getting worse.

Cllr McCormack continued: “We are at a real crisis point here with the number of people in fuel poverty rising, despite the money that is being spent here.”

Concerns were raised that some of the schemes for fuel poverty are not tailored to the needs of the islands where many households are dependent on oil for heating, and don’t take into account the characteristics of island housing stock.

The Scottish Government’s pledge that ‘by 2016 no one in Scotland will be living in fuel poverty’, was also discussed by council members.

“That is quite a commitment to give,” said chair of the committee, Cllr Kenneth Murray.

“We’ll be looking for the cash tomorrow [the day of the Scottish Cabinet meeting in Stornoway].”