The weather turned colder last week. That is more than an inconvenience for many in East Lothian, who worry about their fuel bills. About one in three households in East Lothian is estimated to be in “fuel poverty”. The definition of being fuel poor is where members of a household have to spend more than 10 per cent of their income on energy bills. It is driven by a combination of too many families on low incomes and too many houses being poorly insulated and inefficiently heated.
In 2001, the Labour-led Scottish Government passed ambitious legislation to eradicate fuel poverty by 2016. The current SNP Government will miss that target. Given this, it is astonishing that new figures have revealed SNP ministers plan to cut the fuel poverty budget by more than £15 million – a 13 per cent cut to the current budget.
Any reduction in support for initiatives to reduce fuel poverty will hit the poorest households in East Lothian hardest. That is why I have signed up to Scottish Labour’s plans to deliver a Scottish Warm Homes Act. The act would better support the most vulnerable in our communities to insulate and heat their homes. It would adopt energy efficiency as a National Infrastructure Project and create jobs across the country.
This is yet another example of where the government has the powers to make a real difference to the lives of some of the country’s poorest households, but where the political will is lacking. We need concerted action now to end the scandal of fuel poverty once and for all.