Fuel poverty is ‘shameful’

PA file photo dated 05/11/2004 of an electricity bill and an electricity meter. PRESS ASSOCIATION photo. Issue date: Tuesday April 17, 2007. Some 2.5 million households in England will end up in fuel poverty this year - double the amount of three years ago, a report out today by the Fuel Poverty Advisory Group says. A growing difference between prices paid by pre-payment customers compared to those on direct debit is a "particularly worrying" trend, its report says. See PA story CONSUMER Fuel. Photo credit should read: Martin Keene/PA Wire

PA file photo dated 05/11/2004 of an electricity bill and an electricity meter. PRESS ASSOCIATION photo. Issue date: Tuesday April 17, 2007. Some 2.5 million households in England will end up in fuel poverty this year - double the amount of three years ago, a report out today by the Fuel Poverty Advisory Group says. A growing difference between prices paid by pre-payment customers compared to those on direct debit is a "particularly worrying" trend, its report says. See PA story CONSUMER Fuel. Photo credit should read: Martin Keene/PA Wire

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News that 43% of Scottish borders homes have been deemed ‘in fuel poverty’ has brought about an outcry across the region.

That is well above the national average, which has been measured at 35%.

The statistics were released in a Scottish Government report that also showed children living in Scotland suffered nearly a million days of homelessness last year.

Claudia Beamish, Labour MSP for the South of Scotland, described the statistics as “shameful”.

“Everyone deserves a decent warm home,” she said, “and it reveals the startling inequality within our society today. A shortage in social housing, a lack of affordable homes, increasing charges for private rents and the struggle for first time buyers has created a crisis in housing and the First Minister has recognised this.

“Scottish Labour is looking at housing as a whole and this has resulted in a number of policies which will work together to address these issues. We have committed to banning rip off rent rises and building a minimum of 60,000 affordable homes across Scotland during the next parliament. We are also considering the figure we will commit to for new build social housing, to support the development of this part of the housing picture. Scottish Labour has also committed to helping first time buyers by providing financial assistance to secure a deposit. First time buyers who save up to £3000 in a First Time Buyers ISA will be entitled to an additional £3000 top up under a Scottish Labour Government.

Miss Beamish added:“This is a great opportunity for first time buyers and will help a new generation to home ownership. My daughter only recently bought her own home so I am acutely aware of how difficult it is for first time buyers to get onto the housing ladder. Helping first time buyers will boost the economy, stimulating investment in new builds, providing jobs and regenerating brownfield sites.

“Our housing policies are bold and radical, and will address the housing crisis on many fronts.”

Berwickshire Labour candidate Kenryck Lloyd-Jones said: “Far too many people in the Scottish Borders are struggling to heat their homes. The cold spell of weather is a sharp reminder that many families are having to choose between heating and eating. With homes facing fuel poverty, we must see more help targeted to where it is needed. Targets set by a Labour in government to eradicate fuel poverty by 2016 will be missed.”

Meanwhile Rosemary Dale, from Eyemouth, a candidate for newly-formed left-wing coalition RISE, commented this week: “We should be ashamed to live in what is possibly the most energy rich nation in the world and have anyone living in fuel poverty.

“Fuel poverty needs to be addressed in several ways. RISE believes that poverty needs to be tackled through a fairer and more redistributive tax-collection system, and that a human rights approach to poverty must be taken. We call for the immediate building of 100,000 publicly funded houses for rent which meet Scandinavian standards of ecology and insulation. A further RISE policy which would help to combat fuel poverty is the public ownership of energy companies.”

Local MSP John Lamont also commented: “Fuel poverty is a major problem in the Scottish Borders, made all the more serious by our comparatively elderly population. Despite well published Scottish Government energy initiatives, it’s shocking that so many people are still struggling to heat their own homes.”

Mr Lamont went on to criticise a switching off of power at Penmanshiel while a new windfarm was connected to the national grid this week.