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A third of Argyll’s households are suffering from the cost-of-living crisis, with the third highest fuel poverty in Scotland.
And energy bills are forecast to soar by 50 per cent in April unless the UK Government intervenes.
Kintyre Food Bank has already seen more demand due to rising energy prices with the axing of the government’s Universal Credit £20 uplift, introduced in October last year to help people who were struggling during the height of the pandemic, putting even more pressure on household budgets.
A worldwide squeeze on gas supplies has led to many utility companies collapsing, as wholesale energy prices rose faster than the maximum tariffs they were allowed to charge.
Every six months, the energy regulator Ofgem reviews the ‘energy price cap’, the maximum price suppliers in England, Wales and Scotland can charge domestic customers on a standard tariff.
‘The increase in the price cap in April could be as much as £700, and by next October, the cap could easily exceed £2,000,’ warned Philippe Commaret, a managing director at EDF, the UK’s fourth-biggest supplier.
UK households on low incomes will spend an average of 18 per cent of their income after housing costs on energy bills from April, projected the Joseph Rowntree Foundation.
Spiralling costs for electricity and gas have come on top of rising inflation and food prices, labour shortages, cuts to Universal Credit, and a looming hike of National Insurance contributions in April.
Price rises will hit the poorest hardest, in a country which already has more food banks (2,000) than McDonalds franchises (1,300).
The UK Parliament classed around 13 per cent of households in England as fuel poor, with 25 per cent in Scotland, 12 per cent in Wales, and 18 per cent in Northern Ireland.
Fuel poverty is a devolved issue and each nation has its own definition, meaning rates across the UK cannot be summed.
In Scotland’s fuel poverty table, Argyll and Bute is ranked joint third worst with Moray, just below Highland and Na h-Eileanan Siar, according to campaigners Energy Action Scotland (EAS).
Almost a third of all households in Argyll and Bute – 32 per cent – are living in fuel poverty, a measure defined by the Scottish Government as any household spending more than 10 per cent of its income on energy, after housing costs are deducted.
Advice Direct Scotland (ADS), the country’s national advice service, is running a debt advice service, moneyadvice.scot, and the £3 million Scottish Government Home Heating Support Fund, designed to prevent households falling into fuel poverty and help those ‘rationing’ their energy use.
A Kintyre Food Bank spokesperson said: ‘We have noticed a big increase in footfall at the food bank over the last few years and even more so since energy prices started to go up.
‘We just want people to know that we are here to help. We offer a non-judgemental and confidential service and can also give advice about funds that are available to help towards fuel costs and food costs.’
The spokesperson also commended the generosity of the Campbeltown community along with the hard work put in by the food bank committee.
Visit the Kintyre Food Bank Facebook page for more information.