Third of Argyll homes suffering cost-of-living crisis

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A third of Argyll’s homes are suffering from the cost-of-living crisis, with the third highest fuel poverty in Scotland.

And energy bills are forecast to soar by 50 per cent in April unless the UK Government intervenes.

Oban food bank Hope Kitchen has already seen more demand due to rising energy prices, and more demand for food that’s quicker to cook.

A worldwide squeeze on gas supplies has led to many utility companies collapsing, as wholesale energy prices rose faster than the maximum tariffs they were allowed to charge.

Every six months the energy regulator Ofgem reviews the ‘energy price cap’: the maximum price suppliers in England, Wales and Scotland can charge domestic customers on a standard tariff.

‘The increase in the price cap in April could be as much as £700, and by next October, the cap could easily exceed £2,000,’ warned Philippe Commaret, a managing director at EDF, the UK’s fourth-biggest supplier.

UK households on low incomes will spend an average of 18 per cent of their income after housing costs on energy bills from April, projected the Joseph Rowntree Foundation.

Spiralling costs for electricity and gas have come on top of rising inflation and food prices, labour shortages, cuts to Universal Credit, and a looming hike of National Insurance contributions in April.

Inflation rose at its fastest rate in 30 years, to 5.4 per cent in the 12 months to December, up from 5.1 per cent the month before.

Price rises will hit the poorest hardest, in a country which already has more food banks (2,000) than McDonalds franchises (1,300), despite its status as a G7 nation, the boss of Iceland supermarket Richard Walker said.

The UK Parliament classed around 13 per cent of households in England as fuel poor, with 25 per cent in Scotland, 12 per cent in Wales, and 18 per cent in Northern Ireland.

Fuel poverty is a devolved issue and each nation has its own definition, meaning rates across the UK cannot be summed.

In Scotland’s fuel poverty table, Argyll and Bute is ranked joint third worst with Moray, just below Highland and Na h-Eileanan Siar, according to campaigners Energy Action Scotland (EAS).

Almost a third of all households in Argyll and Bute – 32 per cent – are living in fuel poverty, a measure defined by the Scottish Government as any household spending more than 10 per cent of its income on energy, after housing costs are deducted.

Advice Direct Scotland (ADS), the country’s national advice service, is running a debt advice service, moneyadvice.scot, and the £3 million Scottish Government Home Heating Support Fund, designed to prevent households falling into fuel poverty and help those ‘rationing’ their energy use.

ADS said: ‘With energy bills set to soar in April, there are tens of thousands of families across Scotland who are anxious about the future. It’s important to remember that free advice is available and you don’t have to struggle alone.’

Hope Kitchen said: ‘In light of the recent benefits changes and the increase in fuel prices, please remember that Hope Kitchen runs a food parcel service. It is a non-judgemental and confidential service.

‘We can also give advice about other funds that are available to folk to help towards fuel costs and food costs.’