Carmichael seeks answers on Alternative Fuel Payment confusion

ISLES MP Alistair Carmichael has called for some much-needed clarity on a number of unanswered questions around the government’s Alternative Fuel Payment (AFP) benefit.

The MP said that following a call for responses from islanders many of his constituents had found they had not received the one-off payment of £200 while others got it unexpectedly, given the government criteria.

AFP is paid to households that are not connected to the mains gas grid and use ‘alternative’ fuels to heat their homes with either tank or bottled gas, liquid petroleum gas, oil, wood or solid fuels such as coal or peat.

Most homes in the Northern Isles are eligible for this payment and will have received it automatically as a credit on their electricity bills.

Some however may not have received the payment automatically, generally either because their home is in an area which is mainly connected to the gas grid, or they are not connected to either the gas or the electricity grid.

These people will have to apply through the ‘AFP alternative fund’ which is expected to open next week. A link is supposed to appear here.

Isles MP Alistair Carmichael.

Carmichael said: “The concerns about confused eligibility and the risk of payments being clawed back are because information from the government is so lacking.

“If we do not get proper answers on these questions in the coming days then the frustration amongst people in off-grid homes is only going to intensify. Ministers should consider themselves on notice.”

The MP has asked homeowners in Orkney and Shetland to get in touch with his office if they have not received the payment or have experienced any other obstacles in applying for it.

There is a separate £150 one-off payment to businesses not connected to the gas mains grid, which will become available as of 10 March.

Meanwhile, the Liberal Democrats have called on the government to cancel the £500 energy bill rise which will come into force on 1 April when Ofgem energy price cap for an average household rises from £2,500 to £3,000.

The party further called for a stronger windfall tax on oil and gas companies to help tackle the energy cost crisis.

“The Conservatives’ plan to hike energy bills in April will come as a hard hit to families in the isles who are already struggling with squeezed incomes, food prices and tax rises,” Carmichael said.

“With inflation still running north of ten percent that is a price hike few will be grateful for.

“Far too much of the support that has been given to families has been late in coming and confusing in the implementation.

“To cut off support even as households are still waiting for some delayed payments risks leaving people entirely in the dark. We need more certainty and a more thoughtful response from the government.”

Shetland News