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One-off cash injection may prevent fuel poverty
A ONE-OFF cash boost could stop thousands of families falling into fuel poverty, council chiefs in Southampton hope.
The city council’s Cabinet has approved a one-off injection of £391,000 which will limit price increases in the city’s communal heating system to 2.5 per cent this year.
In the last two years heating prices for households on the system, which powers about 7,000 council homes, have risen by between 18 and 19.5 per cent.
Three consecutive harsh winters saw the deficit in the council’s heating account rise to £1.62million.
That figure has now fallen to £1.4million and council chiefs believe that if Southampton has a couple of milder winters the deficit will have been wiped out entirely by the end of the August 2016/2017 financial year.
But with household incomes being squeezed by the economic downturn and benefit changes, council chiefs say they want to reduce the cost of heating to families in council homes on low incomes.
The authority’s cabinet has now agreed a one-off spend of £391,000 which will limit the rise in heating costs to 2.5 per cent from October 7.
The council’s housing and sustainability chief, Warwick Payne, said: “These are difficult times for families on lower incomes with both the economic slowdown and the Government benefit cuts catching them in a pincer move. With that in mind we wanted to go the extra mile to prevent families in Southampton falling into fuel poverty or falling further into it still.”
The move is designed as a stop-gap measure before the full benefits of the council’s new Energy Company Obligation deal can be felt.
Cabinet chiefs have launched a search to find an energy company to run the £50million scheme, which will eventually see work carried out on thousands of homes across Southampton, Fareham, the New Forest, Winchester and Portsmouth that will improve their heating systems and thermal performance.
The initiative, which is also expected to create up to 760 jobs, is part of a nationwide project which has seen the Government introduce new obligations on energy firms to fund improvement works.
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