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Highland Council calls on UK government and Ofgem to end region's higher electricity bills

By Val Sweeney

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Fears have been raised that more households in the Highlands will face fuel poverty this winter.
Fears have been raised that more households in the Highlands will face fuel poverty this winter.

Urgent action is being demanded by Highland Council to end higher electricity charges paid by households in the north of Scotland amid fears that more are set to fall into fuel poverty.

It is writing to the UK government and the energy regulator Ofgem calling for charges to be brought into line with other regions.

It comes as hundreds of people have signed the Strathy's sister tile Inverness Courier’s petition – the End The Chill campaign highlighting the fuel poverty crisis – calling for a level pricing playing field with the rest of the UK.

Although the Highlands and Islands are a powerhouse of renewable energy, all households pay more for their electricity because of outdated calculations.

It also has the worst fuel poverty rates in Scotland.

Aird and Loch Ness councillor David Fraser is a member of the working group set up after councillors agreed to press Ofgem and the UK government for urgent action to tackle the higher charges.

Councillor David Fraser.
Councillor David Fraser.

Councillor Fraser explained all domestic users north of the Central Belt – the coldest part of the UK – paid a three per cent surcharge.

He said although Ofgem had been looking at the issue for three years, the body had said it could not implement quick changes.

“So something needs to change and that has to be a policy change from the UK government to ensure all domestic customers have the same charges regardless of where you live in the UK,” Councillor Fraser said.

“They can still have competition between providers but they must offer UK-wide rates, not regional.”

He acknowledged it could be an uphill change to persuade the government to make the issue a priority but it had to be addressed.

He also wanted to see any future agreement backdated to January 1, 2022, so any overpayments were refunded.

“It is an injustice which needs to be resolved,” he said.

“With rising energy prices, we need to do everything we can to combat fuel poverty.”

The Highlands is among the worst-affected regions with 33 per cent of all households living in fuel poverty and 22 per cent deemed to be living in extreme fuel poverty.

There have been stark warnings from a broad range of organisations that many more people will face a bleak choice between eat or heat this winter.

It comes against a background of spiralling energy costs, the impact of the coronavirus pandemic which has hit many household budgets plus the removal of the £20 uplift to Universal Credit payments.

To sign the Inverness Courier's End the Chill petition, go to www.change.org/unfair-charges.

Courier launches campaign to help fight fuel poverty

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