South Scotland

Dumfries and Galloway fuel poverty 'unacceptable'

Electricity meter
Image caption The council said rises in energy prices meant part of the fuel poverty problem was outwith its control

The scale of fuel poverty in Dumfries and Galloway has been described as "unacceptable" by councillors.

It is an issue which affects an estimated 41% of all households in the region compared with 28% nationally.

Families spending more than 10% of their income on energy bills are classed as living in fuel poverty.

There are concerns that council efforts to tackle the issue could be undermined by further price increases by the utility companies.

Housing sub-committee councillor Alistair Geddes said it was an appalling situation and action was needed.

"I think quite frankly it's a wholly unacceptable position," he said.

"We are constantly told that the gap between the haves and have-nots is widening and here is a classic case in point.

"I think at the end of the day we have got to mobilise public opinion and put pressure on our elected representatives to say to these people who are continually hiking the fuel costs - enough is enough, we are not prepared to accept any more."

Market forces

The percentage of households classed as living in fuel poverty equates to almost 26,500 homes.

The council, as part if its new five-year local housing strategy, has set a target of reducing that figure by 20%.

Head of Housing John Lynch said the strategy was largely based on helping householders improve energy efficiency, but admitted they were vulnerable to market forces.

"The issue of fuel poverty and the ways to solve it are not entirely within the gift of the local authority," he said.

"There are certain things that we can do but there are lots of things that we can't control.

"The primary issue there is fuel costs."

However, he said the council was working on a range of measures to try to do what it could to address the situation.

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