SNP Energy Spokesperson Mike Weir, MP for Angus, is making a fresh attempt to persuade the UK government to make a simple change to payment of winter fuel allowances that would help off-grid pensioner households beat soaring winter energy costs.
Weir had previously brought forward the Winter Fuel Allowance Payments (Off-Grid Claimants) Bill, which would provide for the early payment of Winter Fuel Allowance to pensioners whose homes are not connected to the mains grid and whose principal source of fuel is home fuel oil, liquid petroleum gas or propane gas. But the Bill was filibustered in parliament.
Weir has now reintroduced the bill and will present it in the Commons on tomorrow (27 November) in another attempt to get the government to address the issue.
Bringing forward payment of Winter Fuel Allowance would allow vulnerable consumers to fill up their tanks prior to the onset of winter and at a time when prices tend to be lower. Weir told Scottish Energy News:
“While all households have been hit by rocketing energy prices, off-grid customers, who have no access to the reduced tariffs available to mains gas customers or any real possibility of taking the UK government’s advice to switch suppliers, are especially vulnerable.
“This bill would bring forward payment of the pensioners winter fuel allowance earlier in the year so households can fill their tanks prior to the onset of winter and when fuel prices tend to be cheaper. The whole purpose of the winter fuel allowance was to provide help to pensioners when their main winter bill arrives. The system works for those who pay by quarterly bills but does not work for off grid consumers who have to pay in advance to fill up their tanks.
“The heating oil market is subject to sudden and very high price spikes and there is real concern amongst consumers that there is very little competition in the market, leaving them effectively with no option but to pay up. Off-grid users are the only customers not to have any real access to competitive tariffs and a large number of the rural fuel poor are unable to get help with heating bills at all.”