Argyll and Bute MSP argues for early winter fuel payments

Michael Rusell, MSP for Argyll and Bute, has backed his Westminster colleagues in a bid for early winter fuel payments.

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

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 have argued that it ‘just makes sense’.

Mr Russell 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 Argyll and Bute 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. It is also often forgotten that those buying in oil or LPG are paying up front for their supplies and this can be expensive.

“ 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’.”