Just days after it was revealed that the cost of central heating oil in Britain had risen sharply over recent months, the Government has announced that it has had to suspend Warm Front payments after running out of money.
Under the Warm Front scheme, a proportion of households that rely on income-related benefits or disability allowances are able to receive £3,500 per annum for help with central heating and insulation costs. Recognising the additional difficulties faced by oil consumers, many households that rely on oil as opposed to mains gas for central heating are eligible to receive up to £6,000 each year. Unfortunately, the Government has elected to suspend the Warm Front payments after deciding not to make new monies available under the scheme.
The Department for Energy and Climate Change was forced to consider several options after reaching its allocated budget of £345 million for the year. At a time of heightened fuel dependency, increasing fuel prices and widespread fuel poverty, it is regrettable that the coalition Government has chosen to suspend the payments; indeed, the decision is likely to impact the most on many of the households that are worst affected by the burgeoning fuel crisis.
Oil customers who rely on the Warm Front payments will probably feel the effects of the Government’s latest cost-cutting measure more than anyone else. Approximately two million homes in Britain use oil for central heating because they are unable to connect to the mains gas supply. According to official claims, oil prices have increased by 70 per cent or more in many parts of the UK during the past few months, however, numerous oil customers claim to have experienced far more costly rises since the beginning of December. Worse still, it has been reported that many oil companies are unable to offer fresh fuel supplies until the New Year.
As Britain prepares itself for another blast of Arctic weather, the absence of Warm Front payments could hit the most vulnerable households the hardest.
Audrey Gallacher, of Consumer Focus, warned: “Thousands of low income homes will be hit not only by the freezing weather, but also by the freezing of the Government scheme set up to make their homes warmer.”