Speaking during First Minister’s Questions, Plaid Cymru MS for Mid & West Wales Cefin Campbell highlighted that across Powys an estimated 55 per cent of households are not connected to the mains gas grid – which compares with a Wales average of 19 per cent, and as low as 2 per cent in more urban local authority areas such as Caerphilly and Rhondda Cynon Taff.
Mr Campbell also raised that unlike electricity and gas, heating oil was not subject to a price cap, and that households were now vulnerable to fluctuating prices. In particular, the MS cited the experience of one constituent from Montgomeryshire that had seen the price for a 1,000 litres of heating oil skyrocket from £269 in October 2020 to £939 at the end of September 2022.
During his mini-budget on September 23, Chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng revealed proposals for a £100 payment to be support households reliant on heating oil. Mr Campbell has criticised this, describing the payment as “a pittance that won’t do anything other than scratch the surface for these kinds of households.”
Last month, the Welsh Government announced a Fuel Support Scheme, which offers £200 for eligible households to meet the pressures of the cost-of-living crisis. But Mr Campbell expressed concerns that areas of Mid & West Wales may disproportionately under-qualify for the fund, compared to more urban areas. He subsequently called on the First Minister to consider committing to a further support package to aid off-grid households in rural areas.
Speaking after the First Minister’s Questions, Mr Campbell said: “It’s common knowledge that homes across Powys are disproportionately reliant on off-grid fuel sources such as oil and biomass than other parts of Wales.
“With heating oil prices skyrocketing as the cost-of-living crisis intensifies, current support made available both in the Tories’ disastrous mini-budget, and the existing Welsh Government scheme falls disproportionately short of meeting the unique circumstances of many Mid & West Wales households.
“As winter approaches, many families across my region are already facing the unenviable choice between heating and eating, and therefore it’s vital that the Welsh Government looks to step-in where the careless Conservatives in Westminster have failed, and better support our off-grid rural communities.”
Responding to the question, First Minister, Mark Drakeford said: “I do recognise everything that the Member has said about the situation in west Wales, and how much people rely on different ways to heat their homes and who aren’t having any support from the Westminster Government.
“We are doing many things already. We have extended the discretionary assistance fund to give more help to people who depend on that as a way to buy their fuel or energy, in the way that Cefin Campbell set out. We have a new scheme and that was opened at the end of September, with £4 million to the Fuel Bank Foundation.
“That’s going to provide support to people who depend on prepayment meters, but also will provide support to those buying oil in the way the Member described. And also, of course, we have provided funding to local authorities, on top of the funding that they’ve had to distribute to every household who pay council tax, funding that they can use in the appropriate way for their areas.”