A would-be Renfrewshire politician has called on council bosses to fast-track plans to help residents left in fuel poverty.
Renfrewshire Council is expected to enshrine measures to help those struggling with fuel costs as part of its Local Housing Strategy blueprint.
The document outlines planning by the authority and its partner agencies for the delivery of high quality housing and support services.
But the blueprint is out for public consultation, which does not end until June 13.
Robert Innes, who will stand for the SNP in the Houston, Crosslee and Linwood ward at May’s council election, said it is vital that the council speeds up plans to help residents struggling with rising household fuel costs.
Robert said: “With the recent and planned future increases in fuel costs, it is essential that Renfrewshire Council speeds up its work on developing a fuel poverty strategy to help those struggling with fuel prices.”
Plans contained in the blueprint are expected to include moves to provide good quality advice to Renfrewshire residents on energy use but Robert says locals must also be able to access support when required.
Paisley Housing Association offers a Fuel Bank Scheme designed to assist tenants in crisis who have either self-disconnected because they can’t afford to top-up prepaid gas and electricity meters, or are at risk of doing so.
The Scheme agencies is funded by multiple agencies, including Energy Action Scotland, Martin Lewis, the Scottish Government and the Energy Savings Trust.
Now Robert is calling on council bosses to fast track their bid to help with energy price hikes, saying: “While it is good that Renfrewshire Council, along with its partners, are developing a Fuel Poverty Strategy, I would hope this would be fast- tracked as people across Renfrewshire are struggling now.
“The decision of the UK Government to allow fuel prices to rise by 54 per cent is appalling and will have a massive impact on those on low and fixed incomes. Other countries are limiting fuel increases to 4 per cent (France) or 5 per cent (Germany) but Westminster is allowing energy companies to make excessive profits.”
He added: “It’s disgraceful that in an energy rich country like Scotland, the greed of energy companies could result in even more people falling deeper into poverty in Renfrewshire.”
Domestic fuel prices are set to hike from April with further increases expected in October.
It comes amidst a cost-of-living crisis fueled by massive increases in the price of petroleum and diesel at the pumps and rising inflation – currently at 6.2 per cent, the highest in three decades.
The increases have sparked rising food costs, while interest rates increases see mortgages rise and cash-strapped councils raise rent and council tax costs.
We told in February how community activists fear vulnerable Renfrewshire residents will die as they are pushed to the brink and fear tough choices between heating and eating.
Terry McTernan, from the Darkwood Crew, who works with residents in Ferguslie Park, told of his fears, saying: “People in Ferguslie Park are experiencing fuel poverty already, this is another blow and I don’t think it’s one that people were prepared for.”
And he warned: “I don’t understand what local and national governments expect people to do?
“My genuine concern is that people are going to die over this. We live in the West of Scotland, not the Costa Del Sol. People need to put their heating on.”
It comes as Google search data reveals that searches for “help with energy” exploded 1000 per cent in March – reaching the highest level in internet history.
The analysis, by energy experts Boiler Central, reveals searches on the topic reaches 10 times the average volume in the past month.
Searches on “can’t afford energy” also rocketed by 2300 per cent.
Renfrewshire Council offers free energy advice for all householders, via The Energy Saving Advice Centre, available by calling 0808 808 2282.
George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.