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Monday, March 2, 2015

AM calls for fuel poverty to be given priority

In the week of Fuel Poverty Awareness Day, North Wales Assembly Member and Chair of the Cross Party Group on Fuel Poverty, Mark Isherwood, has called on the Welsh Government to give fuel poverty priority.
On Thursday Mr Isherwood co-sponsored and attended an Assembly event to mark Fuel Poverty Awareness Day.
Challenging the Minister for Communities and Tackling Poverty, Lesley Griffiths AM, in the Assembly Chamber  the day before the event, Mr Isherwood described fuel poverty in Wales as endemic and questioned the omission of fuel poverty from the Welsh Government’s Tackling Poverty Action Plan.   
He said: “Interestingly, at UK level, as you know, the definition of fuel poverty was changed to move towards needs and resources. Of course, Wales has stuck to an income-based definition. But we heard from the Bevan Foundation and Joseph Rowntree Foundation about the omission of fuel poverty, which I understand is not in your brief now, from the Tackling Poverty Action Plan, which is within your brief, which they believed should be central to your Tackling Poverty Action Plan. What consideration are you giving to that, given that fuel poverty is endemic, and often a major contributory factor to wider deprivation and vulnerability?”
The Minister confirmed that fuel poverty isn’t in her portfolio, but in the Minister for Natural Resources.
Mr Isherwood  added: “Friday is Fuel Poverty Awareness Day—thanks to the campaign run by National Energy Action and National Energy Action Cymru. As they pointed out, Arbed and Nest are very welcome schemes. They partly fall in your portfolio, partly in your colleague’s portfolio, as they cross housing, poverty and fuel poverty.
“Over 98% of people living in fuel poverty fall outside that, but there is great work going on, across Wales, in many areas, to address that. What consideration, working with your colleagues, but within the Tackling Poverty Action Plan - which is the only plan we currently have - have you given to revising and updating the Fuel Poverty Strategy, to meet and reach the needs of those 98% of people?”
The Minister replied: “Both Arbed and Nest are actually in the Minister for Natural Resources’ portfolio, but tackling poverty is absolutely cross-Government.”
Mr Isherwood added: “The Minister has written to me to state that the Tackling Poverty Action Plan sets out actions and targets to help prevent and reduce poverty in Wales. Given that the Welsh Government has scrapped the Ministerial Fuel Poverty Advisory Group and failed to incorporate fuel poverty into its Tackling Poverty Action Plan, this should not be in another Minister’s portfolio and must be given priority.” 

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