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Eilidh Whiteford, MP for Banff & Buchan

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SNP Call for Early Winter Fuel Payments for Pensioners 'Off-Grid'

Friday, 19 April 2013

“MANY PENSIONERS DISADVANTAGED AT PRESENT” - WHITEFORD

In a Westminster Parliamentary debate on off-gas grid fuel the SNP has increased the pressure on the UK Government to pay winter fuel payments for off-grid pensioners earlier than currently happens.

Banff & Buchan MP Eilidh Whiteford says that ‘many North-east pensioners are disadvantaged at present’ because such a significant number of rural households in the region are off the gas grid and rely on tankered fuels for their heating requirements.

For off-grid customers tank gas and oil generally increases in price through the winter but because of the timing of winter fuel payments they are unable to take advantage of lower prices earlier in the year.

Changing the timing of payments would enable more fuel to be bought for the same price in preparation for winter and the SNP argue that it ‘just makes sense’.

The SNP’s Spokesperson on Energy at Westminster has put forward a Private Members’ Bill to make payment of the winter fuel allowance to pensioners off the gas grid at an earlier date from the All Party Parliamentary Group on Off-Grid Gas, and have called upon the new Energy Minister to take a grip of the issue and get some common sense action over the issue.

Commenting, Eilidh said:

“The SNP has long argued that bringing forward the payment of winter fuel allowance to eligible pensioners who are off the gas grid would allow them to make purchases of fuel before the winter sets in and prices normally rise substantially.

“Many North-east pensioners with off-grid oil and gas heating systems are disadvantaged at present with a system that was designed to work best for on-grid pensioner households. What is being proposed is simply common sense and not enough effort is being put in to make it work.

“The whole purpose of the payment is to ensure that funds are available when the winter fuel bill arrives, which the present system does very well for those who pay their bills quarterly. Unfortunately those off the gas grid, such as those with tanked oil and gas heating systems, will generally find prices more expensive at that time and may have had considerable difficulty in getting or paying for supplies over the winter months.

“Not only that but if pensioners in these circumstances find they can only order heating oil and gas during the winter, then there can be significant weather difficulties delaying or preventing delivery of fuel to their homes.

“What we seem to be getting from the Department is that it’s too difficult but what we’re saying is ‘you’re the Minister, make the change’!”

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