Mark Lazarowicz, MP for Edinburgh North and Leith, has urged Government and the energy companies to make sure that people on low income and especially pre-payment meter (PPM) users don’t fall through the net as major changes to the benefit system and help with home heating take place.
Speaking in a Westminster debate on fuel poverty and energy efficiency Mark said: “The current cold weather should act as a wake-up call: as benefit cuts bite increasing numbers of people may face a cruel choice between rationing their heating and getting into debt with their fuel bills.
“Government and energy companies should be more active in identifying those having problems at an early stage so that they can get help before they get out of control.
“That’s especially true where pre-payment meter users are concerned – they are forced to pay more for their energy and may also have had a PPM installed to help keep track of what they are using.
“Government policy on energy tariffs has been confused but what must be clear is that pre-payment meter users should automatically be put on the cheapest tariff their supplier offers.”
Aside from changes to the benefit system, a new UK-wide energy efficiency scheme, the Green Deal, is being introduced and Mark stressed the need to link the two so that the most vulnerable customers get the help they need.
The debate took place in the same week that Leith based Environmental organisation Changeworks were awarded nearly half a million pounds from the Department of Energy and Climate Change in order to coordinate a “collective power purchase scheme,” across South East Scotland.
Although Changeworks are still to release details of how the scheme will operate, once up and running it could help locals lower their bills by harnessing the collective buying power of a large group of people to get access to lower energy prices.
Announcing the funding award, Energy Secretary Edward Davey said:
“We need to find new ways to help people with their energy bills, working with communities and councils across the country.
“The projects we are funding will help people save energy and save money: helping the most vulnerable to heat their homes, getting the Green Deal market up and running and encouraging people to switch energy suppliers to get their bills down.
“Funding will also be used to drive forward collective purchasing and switching initiatives at a local level, helping consumers get a better deal on their energy bills. I am delighted so many organisations want to run new co-operative schemes to help people, especially the fuel poor, to get the best deals in the market.”