Holyrood committee takes evidence on new fuel poverty target



Elizabeth Leighton, director, Existing Homes Alliance Scotland © Andrew Cowan/Scottish Parliament

The Scottish Parliament’s local government and communities committee began hearing evidence yesterday as part of its examination of proposed legislation which sets a new target relating to the eradication of fuel poverty.

The Fuel Poverty (Target, Definition and Strategy) (Scotland) Bill sets a target of no more than 5% of households living in fuel poverty by 2040. It also proposes a new definition of fuel poverty and requires the Scottish Government to publish a fuel poverty strategy, as well as a progress report every five years.

draft fuel poverty strategy was published alongside the Bill in June.

Among those to give evidence were:

  • Elizabeth Leighton, director, Existing Homes Alliance Scotland;
  • Craig Salter, policy officer, Citizens Advice Scotland;
  • Linda Corbett, energy adviser, East Ayrshire Citizens Advice Bureau;
  • Norman Kerr, director, Energy Action Scotland;
  • Dion Alexander, chairman, Highlands and Islands Housing Associations Affordable Warmth Group.

In its written submission to the committee, the Existing Homes Alliance said “while the focus on fuel poverty is welcome, we fear that the scope is too narrow and misses a ‘once in a generation’ opportunity to tackle energy efficiency as well and end the scandal of Scotland’s cold, damp homes”.

Norman Kerr, director, Energy Action Scotland © Andrew Cowan/Scottish Parliament

According to the Alliance, the proposed definition sees 24% of households living in fuel poverty – or nearly 600,000 households – about the population of Glasgow.

“People living in fuel poverty are at greater risk of health problems – respiratory and cardiovascular illnesses, poor infant weight gain, more frequent and severe asthmatic symptoms, and increased depression and anxiety. People who live in the coldest homes are three times more likely to die from cold related illnesses,” it added.

The Alliance argued that proposed target to reduce fuel poverty levels from 24% today to 5% by 2040 should be much more ambitious.

It said: “This averages out at a reduction of only 1% a year – with a deadline that is a generation from now. We propose the following target: no one should be living in fuel poverty, as far as reasonably practicable, by 2032.”

Craig Salter, policy officer, Citizens Advice Scotland © Andrew Cowan/Scottish Parliament

Citizens Advice Scotland said the cost of energy has accounted for the majority of fluctuations in fuel poverty levels in recent years, but added there is still scope for the Scottish Government to influence and address all four drivers of fuel poverty through innovative approaches “if that ambition to do so is there”.

It added: “It is fundamentally important that the new definition, target and strategy are designed around, and informed by, the experiences of households living in fuel poverty. In recent years, CAS has carried out a range of research into fuel poverty, its impact on individuals and households, and how it can be effectively tackled.”

Dion Alexander, chairman, Highlands and Islands Housing Associations Affordable Warmth Group © Andrew Cowan/Scottish Parliament

In its own written submission, the Highlands and Islands Housing Associations Affordable Warmth Group said “the proposed new fuel poverty definition discriminates against a large proportion of the long-disadvantaged, both generally poor and fuel poor households who live in off-gas and remote rural areas like the Highlands & Islands - because it deliberately chooses to ignore and set aside as irrelevant the directly applicable Remote Rural Scotland Minimum Income Standard (MIS) evidence”.

The papers from the meeting are available here.

Scottish Borders Council, North Lanarkshire Council, Glasgow City Council, East Ayrshire Health and Social Care Partnership, Scottish Federation of Housing Associations, Energy UK, Warmworks, Calor Gas and Scottish and Southern Electricity Networks will give evidence next week.



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