Politics

Scots families face another week to learn of full help with energy bills

SCOTS families worried about the cost of living will have to wait until next week to hear what steps the Scottish Government is planning to help with their energy bills.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak told MPs on Thursday that he would use a two-pronged approach to keep household costs down by £350.

It followed energy regulator Ofgem announcing a 54 per cent rise in the household price cap, meaning an average rise of £693 from April, to £1,971 a year.

As well as £200 off energy bills, the Chancellor announced a £150 council tax rebate for all homes in England in Bands A to D.

The council tax rebate generated around £290m for Holyrood under the Barnett funding formula, but the Scottish Government has yet to say how it will be spent.

The Government is understood to be looking to use councils as the main vehicle for distributing the money, but may not replicate the rebate seen south of the border.

Scottish ministers are understood to be wary of routing the money via HMRC, DWP or Social Security Scotland, because of the lead-in time required for new payments.

A new stand alone payment would also be time consuming, and could require legislation.

Although crude, a council tax rebate remains an option as it is relatively quick and simple, but may not be the only mechanism used.

Ministers are keen to target the money at those most in need, but wary of doing so in a way that triggers a clawback of UK benefits.

However there was still confusion yesterday over exactly how much money was being added to the Scottish budget, with Edinburgh expecting to hear details from the Treasury only for the clarification to be pushed back until Monday.

SNP Finance Secretary Kate Forbes is expected to explain how the extra Treasury money will be spent on Thursday when MSPs vote on the Scottish Budget for 2022/23.

If the Treasury clarifies the figures quicker than expected, she could make a statement to Holyrood on Tuesday or Wednesday. 

Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Alex Cole-Hamilton said: “Even before the price cap rises, people were facing soaring bills for food and travel. The Scottish Government will have to get this money out to those who need it most as swiftly as possible.”

Council umbrella group Cosla said: “Cosla is currently seeking clarity from Scottish Government officials on this new announcement. We would welcome the opportunity to work with Scottish Government on how any new money, focused on supporting low income households, could be best deployed.”

The Scottish Government said: “As the First Minister said [at FMQs], every penny of additional funding will be put towards helping ease the cost of living crisis.

“The Government remains in discussion with the Treasury to understand how the Chancellor’s statement impacts on consequential payments… and will confirm the position once finalised.

“Ministers remain committed to the extra £120 million already announced for local authorities.”
 

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