Glasgow council U-turn to bring back £100 heat payment for the elderly

The city’s Labour group called on the SNP administration to reinstate the affordable warmth payment

Glasgow council U-turn to bring back £100 heat payment for the elderly iStock

The decision to scrap a £100 payment to help over-80s in Glasgow cover their heating costs has been reversed.

With energy prices rising, the city’s Labour group called on the SNP administration to reinstate the affordable warmth payment — which had been dropped in March.

Cllr Malcolm Cunning, the Labour group’s leader, said there was a “cost of living crisis” due to soaring energy bills, the £20 cut to Universal Credit and the end of the furlough scheme.

City treasurer Ricky Bell agreed the payment should be brought back for one more year, after expected replacement funding from the Scottish Government had been delayed.

However, he said the affordable warmth scheme is “not a great use of council resource” as it is not targeted at those most in need.

Cllr Bell added: “I accept in the very unusual circumstances that we find ourselves right now, removing the payment this year would only add to the challenges that some of our over 80-year-olds will face.”

A Labour motion on the issue was presented by cllr Cunning, who accepted adjustments from the SNP and the Greens.

The Labour group leader said a Scottish Government scheme, which would have replaced the payments, had “not been forthcoming”.

He said: “We are faced now with the real fact that our over 80-year-olds in Glasgow will be £100 a year worse off as a result of a decision that we made.

“We should address that unintended anomaly, we need to particularly address it because we are currently facing a crisis in terms of energy costs.”

He also called on the Scottish Government to provide support to a “wider group of people affected by increased costs and fuel poverty”.

The affordable warmth payment was introduced by the former Labour administration a decade ago. This year, money for the scheme will be taken from the council’s reserves, with Labour estimating it would cost upwards of £1.3m.

It will be “disbursed as soon as practically possible” while taking into consideration pressures on council staff, who have been distributing Covid recovery funds.

Bell said: “Due to the challenges of Covid-19 and indeed other events, the Scottish Government payment has been delayed. 

“At the time of the budget, I could not have known that this right-wing Tory government would preside over an unprecedented rise in energy costs ahead of the winter.”

The Greens had backed the SNP budget deal which scrapped the payment, and cllr Jon Molyneux said they should be ready to revisit decisions if circumstances have changed.

However, he also raised concerns about the affordable warmth scheme.

The Green councillor added: “Under the scheme, a 79-year-old living in poverty will miss out whereas a wealthy 80-year-old will get help. 

“And we know that poverty is rising fastest of all in the private rented sector, among women and children, among minority ethnic groups, in households with a disabled person.

“As well as reinstating the affordable warmth scheme, we should also look at what we can do with additional funds that may yet come from the Scottish Government through Barnett consequential funding which is due to Scotland.”

Conservative councillor Euan Blockley pointed out his group “did not vote to scrap the affordable warmth payment, and have campaigned against it ever since”.

He added: “I am pleased that today we have the opportunity to work together to reverse that callous decision as the winter months approach.”

By local democracy reporter Drew Sandelands

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