As ESB disconnections mount, where is promised fuel poverty strategy
Issued : Monday 16 August, 2010
The disclosure that the ESB is cutting off supply to more than 900 subscribers each month is an indication of the severe financial problems facing many families as a result of the record unemployment levels reached under the Fianna Fail/ Green government and the failure of the Coalition to deliver on promises to assist low income families with fuel costs.
The Review of the Programme for Government published last October promised that ‘we will publish a Fuel Poverty Strategy by the end of 2009’. Nearly twelve months on, not only is there no sign of the promised Fuel Poverty Strategy but the government has, in the meantime, introduced or sanctioned a number of measures that will significantly add to the fuel costs and which will particularly hit low income families.
Firstly the government imposed the carbon levy on home heating oil from May 1st last, further increasing the cost of a fuel that had increased by more than a third in the previous twelve months. This was done despite the failure by government to deliver on promises by Ministers that arrangements would be made to assist those most at risk of fuel poverty before the levy was applied.
Then last week we learned of the government’s decision to impose a new public service levy on the ESB that will increase electricity prices for low income families by up to 5%, while at the same time boosting the profits of a number of multi-national companies involved in energy generation. It is almost beyond belief that this government would introduce a scheme that involves transferring money from low income families to multi-national companies.
With no sign of any reduction in unemployment, with many families facing severe difficulties in meeting mortgage problems, and with people facing delays in accessing social welfare entitlements, the number experiencing fuel poverty is likely to significantly increase, unless the government acts. In particular the number of homes cut off by the ESB is likely to increase over the winter.
The government must now deliver on its promise to publish a fuel poverty strategy. It must also deliver on the commitment to introduce the vouched fuel allowance that was supposed to compensate for the carbon levy introduced on fuel oil on May 1st and this should now be increased to also compensate low income families for the ESB levy.