Plaid Cymru MP blasts ‘utterly absurd’ delays in UK Government support for off grid housholds
Ceredigion MP, Ben Lake, has described the UK Government’s failure to provide rural households with the energy bill support that was promised last September, as “utterly absurd”.
According to the UK Government’s own statistics, Ceredigion is the local authority most reliant on alternative fuels, such as heating oil and LPG, on mainland Britain – at 74 per cent.
The Plaid Cymru MP has consistently urged the UK Government to treat rural communities that are not connected to the mains gas grid equitably with those that are covered by the Energy Price Guarantee.
The UK Government had said online applications will open in January for the £400 Energy Bills Support Scheme Alternative Funding. However, Minister for Energy and Climate, Graham Stuart, told the House of Commons yesterday (25 January) that households without a relationship to a domestic energy supplier would not be able to apply for the £400 discount until 27 February.
The UK Government now say that the £200 Alternative Fuel Payment Scheme payments would open on 6 February.
Mr Lake said that there could not be any “further delays” and that funding must be released to “all eligible households” on 6 February.
He has also called for the UK Government to “avoid a repeat of this ridiculous situation in future” by committing now to extending support to winter 2023-24, as they have already done for households connected to the mains gas grid.
Mr Lake, Plaid Cymru’s Treasury spokesperson, said: “It is utterly absurd that, as we approach February 2023, properties off the gas grid are still waiting for crucial support they were promised back in September 2022.
“It is simply unfair that off-grid households will have been made to wait 6 months longer to receive support for their heating bills when compared to those connected to the mains gas grid.
“There cannot be further delays, and the UK Government must ensure that they release this funding to all eligible households on February 6th. This is a pressing issue for rural areas. 74% of properties in Ceredigion are not connected to the mains gas grid – the highest proportion in mainland Great Britain.
“To avoid a repeat of this ridiculous situation in future, I once again urge the UK Government to provide clarity that any new support for homes connected to the mains gas grid will be accompanied by equivalent payments to help off-grid households with their energy bill next winter.
“The government has promised additional support for households connected to the mains gas grid, and so it is only fair that it does the same for off-grid homes. Such a commitment would help alleviate the growing anxiety felt by thousands of people in rural areas.”
During Wales Questions last Wednesday, Mr Lake urged the Secretary of State for Wales to push his colleagues in the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy and the Treasury to reconsider their position on further support for off-grid premises, and he also asked for clarity regarding the first Alternative Fuel Payment to off-grid homes and businesses which is yet to be made.
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