Headlines: April 14th, 2008

Council leaders are asking for clarification on how extra money being made available to help people deal with rising fuel bills will be paid for. The Local Government Association is also repeating its calls for every home to be properly insulated as it believes this is the best long-term solution to fuel poverty.

The LGA call follows the announcement by the Energy Secretary, John Hutton, of a deal with energy suppliers to triple the amount they spend on social programmes to help poorer householders heat their homes. The agreement is worth 225 million pounds. The LGA welcomed the move as a step in the right direction but said it wanted to know from the Government and the suppliers if the cost of the increased investment will be met by the energy companies or passed on to consumers.

Councillor Paul Bettison,who chairs the LGA’s Environment Board, said it was right to provide extra support to lift the poorest people out of fuel poverty, especially if it protected the elderly and other vulnerable people in the cold winter months. “The LGA is seeking reassurance that this isn’t a new tax, that the extra money comes from energy suppliers rather than being added to the bills of their customers,” he said.

Councillor Bettison said the contribution of householders towards the energy companies’ carbon savings schemes had been raised from 18 pounds to 35 pounds a year only last week. The LGA did not want the new scheme to add to that burden.

“What we need is a comprehensive drive to insulate every home in the country, cutting carbon emissions and lifting people out of fuel poverty long term but this should not be financed by a new tax. Energy companies should match pound for pound what consumers already pay towards combating climate change,” Councillor Bettison said.