POWER: Annual energy bills rise by over £1,000 from next month.

By Lucy Ashton

Households in West Dunbartonshire and Argyllshire expect to see their annual energy bills rise by over £1,000 from next month.

And that will eat up more than 13 per cent of the average person’s take-home pay.

Stephanie Callaghan (SNP) asked First Minister Nicola Sturgeon to urge Jeremy Hunt, the UK chancellor,  to use the Spring Budget to halt that increase.

She said: “It will have a devastating impact on many of our constituents at a time when their finances are already stretched to breaking point.

“Will she support the call from Age UK for an amnesty on pre-payment meters, which are penalising some of the poorest people in our society even further?”

The First Minister told MSPs: “I will certainly take those steps, which are really important. There have been some positive noises from the UK Government around this matter, and I hope to see those realised and turned into concrete commitments in the UK budget next week.

“It is essential that the proposed increase to the energy price guarantee cap be cancelled. Failure to do that would mean an estimated increase of 120,000 Scottish households in fuel poverty, taking the estimated total to almost 1 million.

“I hope we all agree that that would be completely unacceptable, and it can be avoided if the UK Government so chooses.”

Tory MSP  Brian Whittle asked what action the Scottish Government is taking to support home owners seeking to reduce their energy bills.

Ms Sturgeon told him: “The Scottish Government has allocated £336 million to heat, energy efficiency and fuel poverty measures. This year, £119 million of that is targeted specifically at fuel-poor households.

“We have also doubled the fuel insecurity fund and have provided an additional £1.2 million to help advice services to meet increasing demand.

“We are doing, and will continue to do, everything that we can within our limited devolved powers, but, of course, the key levers lie with the United Kingdom Government. We will continue to call on the United Kingdom Government to protect those who are struggling with their energy bills.

“I urge anybody who is struggling to contact Home Energy Scotland, which can provide advice and support on how to manage energy costs.”

Mr Whittle replied: “The cost of living crisis has highlighted the benefits of improved energy efficiency in homes—an area in which Scotland has, sadly, lagged behind for too long.

“The Scottish Government’s existing proposals on home retrofitting for energy efficiency are, like the pledge to retrofit a million homes with heat pumps by 2030, long on ambition but short on detail.

“The answer to every key question about how those goals will be achieved, from who pays to how there will be enough people with the skills to carry out the work, is still unclear.

“They are Scottish Government initiatives and goals. However laudable and necessary their targets are, they are worthless without a route to achieving them.

“A detailed, practical programme for implementation will be vital to delivering net zero homes? If so, when are we likely to get sight of it?

Meanwhile, Tory spin doctors have been busy this morning putting out a pre-Budget release that states that over 4 million families are set to save £45 a year on their energy bills from July as the Chancellor ends the prepayment premium.

Households on prepayment meters pay more on average compared to direct debit customers due to extra costs firms take on managing meters – such as supplying vouchers and collecting payments – being passed on to users.

The vast majority of households who rely on prepayment meters are typically vulnerable or low income, which means the higher tariff and inability to spread the cost is hitting those who can least afford it.

At his Spring Budget next week, the Chancellor is expected to announce fairness reforms to energy bills, bringing the bills of families on prepayment meters in line with average direct debit energy bill under the Energy Price Guarantee.

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