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Highland Council to pay £180 towards heating bills this winter

By Scott Maclennan

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Highland Council has unanimously agreed to provide almost £3 million to help households in fuel poverty in the Highlands this winter.

A payment of £180 will now be made to around 16,440 eligible Highland households where residents are in receipt of means-tested council tax reduction.

It comes after a report highlighted the dire numbers facing Scottish energy consumers showing how much more they pay to heat their homes.

The report stated: “The average UK dual fuel bill comes to £1,138, Scottish consumers face an average bill of £1,759 and for those with electricity only the figure rises to £2,276.”

Council leader Margaret Davidson cited the stark statistics when calling on the council to back the plan at the the local authority's latest full meeting held virtually.

She said: “I would like to begin by asking all members to support this proposal.

“I don’t believe anyone can be unaffected by the statistics and what this will mean for people’s bills, I don’t believe anyone could not have been shocked by that. It stopped me in my tracks.

“People are extremely worried about the power bills when they come in the Spring or after Christmas, I heard on the radio that gas prices are likely to double in the Spring – goodness me, where are we going, we need to do all we can to help with this issue.”

Later at the same meeting, a further motion was passed which will call on OfGem, which is currently reviewing transmission charges, to make sure the north is “immediately brought into line with the south of Scotland” and that “future charges are lowered further to reflect that the Highlands are a net exporter of green energy”.

Further it also sought “support from the Scottish Government and that they also lobby for fair tariffs for the Highlands”.

The Highlands is already among the worst-affected regions in Scotland with 33 per cent of all households living in fuel poverty compared to the national average of 24 per cent while 22 per cent are deemed to be living in extreme fuel poverty – nearly double the national average of 12 per cent.

The significant recent increases in fuel prices will place even greater pressures on an increased number of Highland residents.

The Scottish Government announced a £41 million Winter Support Fund for low-income families which includes £10 million nationally to help those struggling to pay their fuel bills.

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