Affordable Warmth scheme budget slashed amid energy price hikes
One hundred fewer households in Mid and East Antrim will benefit from an Affordable Warmth scheme despite fuel poverty in the borough.
Councillors were told at a meeting of the borough council’s Direct Services Committee on Tuesday evening that 260 households can be referred to the Department for Communities (DfC) scheme during this financial year compared to 360 previously.
However, the council has reported that inquires and requests to Affordable Warmth have risen by 73 per cent in Mid and East Antrim.
The local authority has also noted a “marked increase” in requests to its heater lending scheme. Heaters can be supplied to residents through an emergency loan scheme.
The Affordable Warmth scheme which has been in place since 2014 is run in partnership between the local authority and Housing Executive to fund energy efficiency measures such as insulation for low income households.
It is aimed at households that have a total gross annual household income of less than £23,000.
A report to councillors advised of a reduction in funding for the scheme which targets fuel poverty in private sector households by assisting with a range of heating and insulation measures to improve energy efficiency.
It says that the local authority must cut the number of monthly referrals by a third and the direction comes “at a time when need is greater than ever as a result of rising energy costs”.
DfC has advised local authorities that because of the absence of an Executive, it was not possible to set a budget for 2022/23. However, legislative cover provides for contingency arrangements to allow spend to be incurred in the year ahead. As a result, a capital budget of £16m has been set aside for the Affordable Warmth scheme across Northern Ireland.
Coast Road Alliance Alderman Gerardine Mulvenna said:
“This could not come at a worse time with the prices of oil and gas. I would be happy to propose we write to the Department and for the council to consider if there is any more we can do.”
Ald Mulvenna’s proposal was seconded by Braid DUP Councillor Beth Adger MBE.
On Friday, Power NI announced a rise in electricity prices by £200 annually.
The price hike of 27.5% from July 1 by Northern Ireland’s largest energy supplier will impact more than 461,000 households.
This is Power NI’s second tariff increase this year and its biggest since October 2008.