BARNSLEY’S growing Liberal Democrat contingent have called on the government to increase super-rich oil and gas firms’ taxes to raise money to support thousands of local families facing soaring energy costs.
The Liberal Democrats - made up of Couns Hannah Kitching, Peter Fielding, Steve Hunt, David Greenhough and Mandy Lowe-Flello - say the proposed one-off levy could raise over £5bn to help support families in Barnsley as their energy bills rocket.
This would include doubling the warm homes discount and extending it to all those receiving state pensions or Universal Credit, giving 32,995 households in Barnsley £300 each off their year’s heating bills.
The party is also calling for the winter fuel allowance to be doubled, helping 13,410 pensioners in the area.
Coun Kitching said: “It can’t be right that a few energy firms are making millions from record gas prices while people can’t even afford to heat their homes as the cost of living crisis hits Barnsley hard.
“A one-off ‘Robin Hood’ tax on gas and oil bosses would provide vital funding to support families in our area who are facing crippling energy price hikes.
“For years the Conservatives have ignored this problem and failed to take the bold action we need to reduce fuel poverty.
“The government cannot look the other way any longer while families struggle to get by.”
A fuel poverty crisis gripping Barnsley’s most vulnerable residents for more than a decade has been cited as a key reason why the town’s winter death rate - predominantly affecting the 65 to 84 age bracket - is significantly higher than the national average.
Barnsley Council and Berneslai Homes have completed a review into heating charges for tenants living on a district or communal heating scheme.
There are 24 district heating schemes across the borough, supplying heat and hot water to 1,209 properties.
These homes do not have individual boilers, according to the council, and instead heat comes from a central plant, with tenants paying for the amount of heat they use rather than for electricity or gas like in other houses and flats.
Charges are set to be reduced by 3.1p per kilowatt hour from 9.5p to 6.4p - a reduction of 32.6 per cent - from September 1.
Coun Fielding, who has been calling for the reduction, said: “I’m pleased to see this reduction in the costs of heat to vulnerable tenants but I have to ask why it has taken over two years of my campaigning to do the right thing and reduce their excessive charges.
“This was a clear injustice that should have been remedied years ago. It is unforgivable that this council were content to see tenants suffer such difficulties for so long.
“I have read heartbreaking letters from elderly tenants who were having to go to bed on winter afternoons to keep warm due to the high heating charges.
“It is disappointingly clear that the price Barnsley Council charge their tenants for heat is still higher than some neighbouring councils.”