SOARING energy bills - which councillors believe have left residents facing a ‘heat-or-eat’ crisis this winter - will see more than 100,000 people in Barnsley receive a council tax rebate.
Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced earlier this month that taxpayers who live in a band A to D property will receive a one-off payment of £150 to support households.
Almost half of Barnsley’s estimated 227,000 residents live in band A to D properties, making them eligible to claim the one-off rebate.
Barnsley Council bosses say they will use billing information to identify all households across the borough who qualify, and will begin making the payments in April.
Households who pay their council tax through a direct debit will receive the payment ‘promptly and directly’ into their bank account, according cabinet spokesperson for core services, Coun Alan Gardiner.
“As we see the rising cost of energy prices and, more generally, the surging cost of living, the announcement from the government to offer all eligible households a council tax rebate has been welcomed with open arms,” he added.
“As the local authority administering the payments, our priority now is to make the payments to all eligible households as quickly as we can.
“We really urge as many households as possible to spend five minutes setting up a direct debit to pay their council tax so we can get the rebate to them and avoid residents needing to apply for their payment.”
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’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: “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.”
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.
Barnsley Central MP Dan Jarvis added: “I’m working hard to make sure that everyone has a warm home and never has to face the choice between eating or heating.
“I’m working with our local authorities in South Yorkshire to prevent people dying needlessly from the cold each winter and I’ve put energy efficiency and tackling fuel poverty at the heart of our region’s economic plans.”