The difficulties facing rural communities in Mid and West Wales during the cost of living crisis has been highlighted during the Plenary at the Senedd today, Tuesday (Oct 4).
Plaid Cymru’s Cefin Campbell MS asked the First Minister what the Welsh Government doing to ensure adequate support for rural households across Mid and West Wales as they face the challenges of the cost-of-living crisis.
In response the First Minister said that the Welsh Government has invested more than £1.6 billion this year on targeted cost-of-living support and universal programmes to put money back in people’s pockets and to help alleviate this crisis. He said that this included support to those living off the gas grid to purchase LPG or bulk oil.
The Plaid Cymru MS then highlighted the fact that homes across mid and west Wales are more reliant on off-grid fuel such as oil and biomass than other parts of Wales. He said that in Carmarthenshire, 39 per cent of homes are not connected to the gas grid; 55 per cent in Powys, and 74 per cent in Ceredigion.
The MS went on to say that this compares with an average of 19 per cent across Wales. He said: “Unlike gas, there has been no cap on the cost of this fuel.”
Cefin Campbell contiued: “One constituent has contacted me to say that the price of his oil has increased. He paid some £269 for 1,000 litres of oil a year ago, but that’s increased to £939 this year. And in the disastrous mini-budget of last week, the Tories announced £100, which is a pittance that won’t do anything other than scratch the surface for these kinds of households. And although, First Minister, we welcome the additional £200 that the Welsh Government has provided, I do hope you realise that this is not adequate either in rural areas. Therefore, will you commit to looking at what additional support you can provide to support these households?”
The First Minister said that he did 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.
He said: “We are doing many things already. We have extended the discretionary assistance fund to give more help to people who depend on that as 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. We were very pleased to see in the scheme that Powys County Council has just announced that they are going to use that additional funding to help children and to help disabled people, but they’re also going to provide £150 to all residents who live in homes that have off-grid fuel supply.
“That’s something that is great to see and that will help the people living in Powys in the areas that the Member represents. We’re willing to consider whether there is more that we can do, but we are trying to do many things already.”