Cefin Campbell, Plaid Cymru Member of the Senedd for Mid & West Wales has written to Powys requesting their consideration to open ‘Warm banks’ this winter to help people counter the worst effects of the soaring cost of heating.
Mr Campbell’s calls follows media reports from other areas of the UK that some local authorities are discussing the feasibility of opening ‘warm banks’ – centres where people struggling to heat their homes can go to stay warm.
Energy regulator Ofgem recently confirmed that the energy price cap is set to rise by 80 per cent by October, pushing the average household’s yearly bill up from £1,971 to £3,549.
Previous Welsh Government research suggests that almost a fifth of households in Powys already live in fuel poverty – with figures from 2020 estimating around 55 per cent of properties in Powys are not connected to the mains gas grid, and thus liable to fluctuating electricity and oil price hikes.
Further research published in August 2022 by the University of York suggested Wales will be among the hardest hit of all the nations and regions of the UK by fuel poverty this winter – with 68.7 per cent of households in Wales expected to be trapped in fuel poverty by January, compared to the UK average of 65.8 per cent.
The report also estimates 86.4 per cent of pensioner couples will fall into fuel poverty, whilst over 90 per cent of single parent households with two or more children will struggle to meet their energy bills.
Cefin Campbell MS said:
“As fuel and energy prices continue to rise to completely unaffordable levels, more and more households across the length and breadth of Powys are likely to be thrown into uncertainty – and often left with the unenviable choice between heating and eating.
“As one of the richest countries in the world, it’s a disgrace we’re even forced to have such conversation on how to safeguard our most vulnerable – however the fact of that matter is, UK and Welsh Government support continues to fall short in alleviating the impending crisis that is likely to hit households this Winter.
“Whilst I fully understand the pressures facing our local authorities, I would urge Powys County Council, together with support from the Welsh Government, to at very least consider such proposals of delivering strategic ‘warm banks’ – a proposal already gaining speed in many counties across the UK – in order to better support our elderly and vulnerable as costs continue to spiral.”
Elwyn Vaughan, Plaid Cymru Group Leader on Powys County Council said:
“We already know that over half of households in Powys are off the mains grid and are thus very vulnerable to the soaring energy prices. Currently both Welsh, and in particular, UK Government support in addressing this impending cost of living crisis has been lackluster. It’s clear that at this time of looming hardship, we need to consider all options to help those in need – including the creation of warm banks.”
Sioned Williams MS, Plaid Cymru’s spokesperson on Social Justice added:
“In the longer-term, we need to bring energy under public ownership, as Plaid Cymru has been consistently calling for. We also need to look at the steps that could be taken to stem the corporate greed of energy producers through legislation.
“However, right now, the UK Government, Welsh Government and local authorities all need to be fully focused on keeping families warm and on saving lives. We cannot, under any circumstance, stoically accept that people are facing Victorian levels of poverty and even death in 21st century Wales.”