SNP candidate for Dumfries & Galloway Richard Arkless has today (Friday) said the election in May is the time to demand action from Westminster on rural fuel poverty. Mr Arkless also outlined the steps to tackle fuel poverty he would press for if elected in May, which include the introduction of social tariffs for fuel customers who are not on the mains gas network.
Mr Arkless commented:
“40% of households in this region suffer from fuel poverty. In response the Scottish Government has invested millions in insulation programmes. Our current MP’s response has been simply to complain that it isn’t enough.
“Well that frankly isn’t enough – so as an MP I would support the Scottish Government’s investments in tackling fuel poverty, which have risen by 10% this year, and fight this region’s corner at Westminster too. For a start, I’d campaign to increase the level of the winter fuel payment – which has fallen by 24% in real terms since 2001 while fuel bills have risen by 38%.
“Then there’s the lack of social tariffs for “off-grid” customers. Electricity and Gas companies have to provide social tariffs since they are regulated by Ofgem. LPG and heating oil providers have no such obligation since they aren’t regulated by Ofgem at all. This is a major contributing factor to fuel poverty in D&G – it is recognised even in House of Commons briefing papers – yet nothing has been done about it.
“Even changing the timing of the winter fuel payments for recipients living in areas which are predominantly off the gas grid could help by allowing people to buy more fuel for their money at times of lower demand when prices fall. All of these solutions have been championed by SNP MPs before and all of them have been rejected.
“It is a question of simple solutions being championed by an MP with political will allied to a clear understanding of the problems that need to be addressed in Dumfries & Galloway. That will be my approach if people put their faith in me in May.”