CALLS have been made in the Senedd for more support for off-grid Ceredigion households who are facing rocketing heating bills.
Speaking during First Minister’s Questions, Cefin Campbell highlighted that across Ceredigion an estimated 74 per cent of households are not connected to the mains gas grid – which compares with a Wales average of 19 per cent, and as low as two per cent in more urban local authority areas such as Caerphilly and Rhondda Cynon Taff.
Mr Campbell highlighted that unlike electricity and gas, heating oil was not subject to a price cap – with households vulnerable to fluctuating prices. In particular, Mr Campbell cited the experience of one constituent from that had seen the price for a 1,000 litres of heating oil skyrocket from £269 in October 2020 to £939 at the end of September 2022.
During his mini-budget on 23 September, Conservative Chancellor of the Exchequer, Kwasi Kwarteng MP, revealed proposals for a £100 payment to be support households reliant on heating oil – however, Cefin Campbell MS has criticised this describing the payment as “a pittance that won’t do anything other than scratch the surface for these kinds of households.”
Last month, the Welsh Government announced a Fuel Support Scheme, which offers £200 for eligible households to meet the pressures of the cost-of-living crisis. However, with eligibility reliant on qualifying benefits, Mr Campbell expressed concerns that areas of Mid & West Wales may be disproportionately under-qualify for the fund, compared to more urban areas. Mr Campbell subsequently called on the First Minister to consider committing to a further support package to aid off-grid households in rural areas.
Speaking after the First Minister’s Questions, Cefin Campbell said:
“It’s common knowledge that homes across Ceredigion are disproportionately reliant on off-grid fuel sources such as oil and biomass than other parts of Wales.
With heating oil prices skyrocketing as the cost-of-living crisis intensifies, current support made available both in the Tories’ disastrous mini-budget, and the existing Welsh Government scheme falls disproportionately short of meeting the unique circumstances of many Mid & West Wales households.
As winter approaches, many families across my region are already facing the unenviable choice between heating and eating, and therefore it’s vital that the Welsh Government looks to step-in where the careless Conservatives in Westminster have failed, and better support our off-grid rural communities.”
Responding to Cefin Campbell MS’ question, First Minister, Mark Drakeford said: “I do recognise everything that the member has said about the situation in west Wales, and how much people rely on different ways to heat their homes and who aren’t having any support from the Westminster Government.
“We are doing many things already. We have extended the discretionary assistance fund to give more help to people who depend on that as a way to buy their fuel or energy, in the way that Cefin Campbell set out.
“We have a new scheme and that was opened at the end of September, with £4 million to the Fuel Bank Foundation. That’s going to provide support to people who depend on prepayment meters, but also will provide support to those buying oil in the way the member described.
“And also, of course, we have provided funding to local authorities, on top of the funding that they’ve had to distribute to every household who pay council tax, funding that they can use in the appropriate way for their areas.”