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Some residents in Highlands could receive £180 one-off payment to help pay fuel bills

By Gavin Musgrove

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Council leader Margaret Davidson has said immediate action is imperative to help those struggling with costs of heating their home. Picture: Callum Mackay.
Council leader Margaret Davidson has said immediate action is imperative to help those struggling with costs of heating their home. Picture: Callum Mackay.

Proposals to provide almost £3m to help households in fuel poverty in the strath and wider Highlands this winter will be considered by members at the meeting of full council later this week.

If agreed, a payment of £180 would be made to around 16,440 eligible households in the region where residents are in receipt of means-tested council tax reduction.

The council has said 33 per cent of households in the Highlands are experiencing fuel poverty compared to the national average of 24 per cent and 22 per cent of all households in the region are facing extreme fuel poverty which is nearly double the national average at 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 at the end of October a £41m Winter Support Fund for low-income families which includes £10m nationally to help those struggling to pay their fuel bills.

Highland Council is proposing to use an allocation from this fund together with £2m from reserves in order to mitigate the fuel challenges faced by local residents this winter.

Local authority leader Councillor Margaret Davidson, said: “In the light of the clear concerns about extreme fuel poverty in Highland communities, it is imperative that we take immediate action to relieve some of the worst impacts this winter.

"In the longer term, this dire situation clearly demonstrates the pressing need for a UK wide strategic review of our energy supply, market and infrastructure.”

Depute leader Alasdair Christie said: “Living with fuel poverty has far reaching impacts particularly on health and wellbeing, as well as learning, employment and social networks.

"I would encourage anyone affected by the stark choices of heating or eating, to seek help and support for a number of providers.”

Councillors will consider the proposal on Thursday at council headquarters.

The Welfare Support Team provides free, impartial and confidential support on fuel insecurity concerns, in addition to offering assistance to check eligibility and submit a claim for all benefits and entitlements.

Getting in touch with the Welfare Support Team is the first step to maximising your potential income and managing your money well.

They can be contacted by phone on 0800 090 1004 or by e-mail welfare.support@highland.gov.uk.

In addition, Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB) has a specialist team of Energy Advisors who can undertake a range of energy checks which are designed to help with reducing domestic fuel bills.

CAB Energy Advisers can be contacted on 01463 237664.

Funding is also available from the Scottish Government, Energy Company Obligation (ECO) and Warm Homes Fund for those looking to implement energy efficiency measures within their home such as adding loft, cavity or External Wall Insulation to reduce heat loss and save on annual energy bills. Enquire through www.highland.gov.uk/energyefficientscotland for more information.

Warm Home Discounts equivalent to £140 per annum off household energy bills are available from some energy suppliers for those on low income.

Households are advised to contact their energy supplier to check eligibility.

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