Tuesday, 17 April 2012

Glasgow Council Election 2012 - Fuel Poverty

Households in fuel poverty have been defined as those which spend more than 10% of the household income on fuel for heating, lighting, cooking, etc. The particularly cold winters of 2010 and 2011 combined with record high gas and electricity prices have pushed a greater number of households in to fuel poverty. Increased unemployment and pay freezes have also caused an increase in the number of households affected.  Local authorities can not decree the weather, nor can they influence energy prices but they can provide favourable conditions for employment to help move people out of fuel poverty, although this doesn't really get to the heart of the matter.

The vast majority of homes affected by fuel poverty are older, poorly insulated homes and this is where the council can have a much greater impact. Insulating these properties would lift people from fuel poverty and reduce the carbon footprint of the city now and in the future. Insulating older homes is one of the most cost effective ways of reducing energy use and hence carbon emissions.

Some of the worst houses are former council houses that were sold to their tenants at knock down prices for ideological reasons. Many of the owner/occupiers are elderly and struggle to pay their utility bills, therefore can not afford to invest in double glazing, loft insulation, wall insulation or efficient central heating systems. Their neighbours that were not persuaded to buy their council houses have had all this supplied by their housing association.

So where do the parties stand on this issue?

Scottish Labour Party (currently hold 39/79 seats)
Manifesto items 56, 57 and 59 cover this issue: they will lead the implementation of the Westminster Government's Green Deal scheme, distribute revenue from a wind farm (what windfarm?) to a Warm Glasgow Fund and it will introduce sustainable district heating schemes. There is no indication of the amount that will be invested through the Warm Glasgow fund nor the scope and timescales for district heating schemes.

Scottish National Party (currently hold 20/79 seats)
There is no mention of fuel poverty, nor initiatives to better insulate homes in the SNP Manifesto paper.

Glasgow First (currently have 6/79 seats, rebel group of former Labour members)
Despite being a new party, I have as yet been unable to find their policies or manifesto.

Scottish Liberal Democrats (currently hold 6/79 seats)
There is no mention of fuel poverty, nor initiatives to better insulate homes in the Liberal Manifesto.

Scottish Green Party (currently hold 5/79 seats)
Not surprisingly, this features early in the Green Party manifesto, focussing on improving insulation and exploiting opportunities for renewable energy for existing homes and all council owned buildings.  Job creation is also seen as a benefit of their proposals.

Independent (currently hold 2/79 seats)

Scottish Conservative and Unionist (currently hold 1/79 seats)
In their manifesto, the conservatives state that they will support insulation schemes and tax rebates for energy efficient homes. They do not state whether the insulation schemes go beyond the government's Green Deal not is there any hint of what firm the tax rebates would take. They will also investigate enabling more community heating systems to allow local areas to reduce demand from the grid.

Scottish Socialist Party (No seats in current council)
I have been unable to find a manifesto as such but fuel poverty does feature on their website. Their main tact appears to focus on reducing energy prices rather than energy use but there is mention of building new energy efficient homes.

UK Independence Party (No seats in current council)
This party does not appear to have prepared a manifesto specifically for Glasgow, only a UK wide document.  There is no mention of fuel poverty in this document.

In summary then, Labour, Tories, the Greens and the Socialists all have something to say on fuel poverty and inefficient homes while it doesn't feature with the rest.  Only the Greens and Socialists clearly want to do more than is currently proposed by the Westminster Government.

What are your thoughts? Should the council help address fuel poverty or should it be left to Holyrood or Westminster? If you support/represent any of the parties, please feel free to add to or expand on my summary.

Next under the spotlight is recycling.

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