Rising energy prices have caused misery in households across Scotland and 40% are now burdened by fuel poverty, says debt management company Scottishtrustdeed.co.uk.
The Scottish House Condition Survey, a report published by the Scottish Government, estimated that around 684,000 or 28.9% of Scottish households were in fuel poverty last year, which is defined as spending 10% of a household’s income on fuel costs. However, when taking into account the autumn price hikes of up to 18% by some utility suppliers, national charity Energy Action Scotland believes that close to 900,000 or 40% of households in Scotland now fall into the 10% bracket.
The numbers of households in the 10% fuel poverty bracket has been rising steadily over the last few years, from 582,000 (24.6%) in July 2011 to 658,000 (27.9%) in October 2010. If proved correct, the latest estimated figures mean that 2012 will show the biggest single rise to date.
However, Energy Action Scotland is also increasingly concerned by the number of households now in extreme fuel poverty, which is defined as spending up to 20% of the total household income on energy bills. Almost 8% of Scottish households now fall into this category.
Norman Kerr, Energy Action Scotland Director, said: “The fact that more Scottish households are now in fuel poverty is very disappointing but not surprising, as energy prices have gone up and people’s budgets generally are under pressure. Efforts to make homes energy efficient, so that less energy is needed to heat them, are more vital than ever and will clearly have to be increased.”
The government’s House Condition Survey also assesses the National Home Energy Ratings of the nation’s houses, which this year has shown a large difference between privately rented homes and owner-occupied housing. Nearly 10% of private lets achieved a rating of ‘poor’ compared to just 3% of owners occupied houses, suggesting cash-strapped landlords are doing less to ensure their properties are energy efficient. This directly contributes to the increase in fuel poverty, as their tenants would be struggling to heat them efficiently.
Liam McArthur, Liberal Democrat energy spokesman, said: “The number of households living in fuel poverty in Scotland is nothing short of a scandal. Tackling the underlying causes of this problem will require both Scotland’s governments working closely and constructively. The UK energy Bill will help, not least in simplifying tariffs and ensuring households get the best tariff for them. But more needs to be done, particularly in terms of improving home insulation. It is vital, therefore, that Scottish ministers redouble efforts to help those most in need.”
A spokesperson for debt management company Scottishtrustdeed.co.uk is unsurprised by the figures. “Many of our clients who come to us looking for protected trust deeds spend a considerable amount of money on energy bills and it can often be a downward spiral that’s hard to get out of. Tenants can do nothing if their landlords make them live with an old inefficient boiler or poor glazing that contributes to a drafty house, but frequently we see clients who own their own home too cash-strapped to improve the energy efficiency of their properties and bring down their bills.”
“We often find that our clients have arrears on the energy bills and face the added stress and pressure from suppliers threatening to cut them off. We’ve even had some clients going to friends and families houses to eat, keep warm or bath as they cannot afford to do so in their own home. Luckily, energy bill arrears can be included in a trust deed, which help take the pressure off them but of course doesn’t address the underlying problem of inefficient and energy leaking homes.”
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