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Fuel Poverty Forum minutes: August 2017

Published: 14 Dec 2017
Date of next meeting: 13 Dec 2017
Location: Glasgow

Minutes of the Scottish Fuel Poverty Forum meeting in August 2017.

Published:
14 Dec 2017
Fuel Poverty Forum minutes: August 2017

Attendees and apologies

Present

  • Alan Ferguson (AF) Existing Homes Alliance (Forum Chair)
  • Norrie Kerr (NK) Energy Action Scotland (Forum Deputy Chair)
  • Alison McKean (AMK) Scottish Power
  • Carol Aitken (CA) Scottish Gas
  • Chris Bell (CB) SSE
  • David Stewart (DS) SFHA
  • Donna Burnett (DB) NHS Health Scotland
  • Jim Eadie (JE) Age Scotland
  • John Wood (JW) COSLA
  • Kate Morrison (KM) Citizens Advice Scotland
  • Laura McGadie (LM) Energy Saving Trust
  • Lindsey Restrick (LR) SSE
  • Lisa Glass (LG) Shelter
  • Mike Thornton (MT) Energy Saving Trust
  • Phil Mackie (PM) Scottish Public Health Network
  • Michael Sozansky (MS) Ofgem
  • Simon O’Loughlin (SO) SSE
  • Stephen Cunningham (SC) SHEEN
  • Suzanne Taylor (ST) SP Energy Networks

In Attendance

  • Angus Macleod (AMacl) Scottish Government
  • Ann McKenzie (AMcK) Scottish Government
  • Ailie Clarkson (AC) Scottish Government
  • Silvia Palombi (SP) Scottish Government
  • Saskia Kearns (SK) (Secretariat) Scottish Government

Apologies

  • Craig Salter Citizens Advice Scotland
  • Gillian Noble Scottish Power
  • Claire Doherty Scottish Power
  • Angela McLachlan Shelter
  • Vicky Kelsell Scottish Power Networks
  • John Dickie Child Poverty Action Group
  • Peter Kelly The Poverty Alliance
  • Claire Telfer Save the Children
  • Shona Fisher Ofgem

Items and actions

Minute of meeting of the Scottish Fuel Poverty Forum

28 August 2017, 13.00 – 16.00

Conference Room 1, Victoria Quay, Edinburgh

1. Opening comment from Chair

AF welcomed everyone in attendance to the meeting. He extended a special welcome to new members of the Forum, including Ailie Clarkson (SG Communities Analysis Services) who is the successor to Ganka Mueller, and Chris Bell (SSE). AF introduced the guest speaker, Laura McGadie, from Energy Saving Trust, and introduced members to the Forum’s new Secretariat, Saskia Kearns (Scottish Government).

2. Apologies and Minutes of Last Meeting

Apologies – as detailed above.

Conflicts of Interest – none reported at the time of the meeting.

Minutes of meeting held on 20 April 2017

  • No corrections to be made – Forum members approved draft for publishing.

Matters Arising

  • Page 3 of Minute – SC requested an update on the intention for the Fuel Poverty Definition Review Panel to hold a workshop with Forum members to discuss initial findings. AF confirmed the workshop went ahead on 1 August.

Action Plan – Outstanding Actions

  • All Actions bar one contained in tracker are reported as complete. The one outstanding action is as follows and is being pursued by SG officials: o Provide additional data on households helped through HEEPS.

3. Update on Development of the Fuel Poverty Strategy

Fuel Poverty Definition Review

  • AMcK provided a brief summary of the progress of the Review Panel. AMcK advised that the Panel has completed the first stage of the review and concluded that the current definition is not fit for purpose.
  • AMcK advised that the stakeholder workshop that was held in August went well – attendees broadly welcomed the proposals put forward by the Panel.
  • AMcK highlighted that the preferred model being put forward by the Panel will have an impact on the level of, and groups deemed to be in, fuel poverty. Further work is to be conducted by Scottish Government analytical colleagues on this . The final report will be published in due course.

Fuel Poverty Strategy Consultation

  • AMcK advised that the new fuel poverty strategy will include the new definition (once approved by Ministers) and a new eradication target.
  • AMcK advised that a stakeholder engagement process will be taken forward during the consultation period – Forum members will be invited to an event in due course.
  • AMcK concluded that any consultation responses received will help to inform the new Warm Homes Bill, which Ministers have committed to introduce in Year 2 of this Parliament.
  • SC indicated that he welcomes the work being taken forward and is looking forward to the launch of the consultation.

Role & Remit of the Forum

  • AMcK indicated that, since the last meeting, AF and NK have met with officials to discuss options for the restructuring of the Forum
  • AF and NK confirmed that the revised options paper reflects the points raised at the previous Forum meeting .
  • AMacl highlighted the recommended option was an independently chaired Advisory Panel. Where required, additional resource will be allocated to allow it to take forward a more active influencing role, e.g. by producing papers for consideration. The Advisory Panel would be supported by a wider Stakeholder Forum, which would act as a “critical friend” to government.

Feedback from Forum Members:

  • DB raised a concern that ‘health’ appeared to be an “add-on” to the remit/ focus of the new structure. She requested that the new Panel should be comprised of a range of expertise including a health specialist role. She emphasised that the Panel should have the correct people with the correct skill set.
  • DB also highlighted that the connection between the Forum and the Poverty & Equality Commission must be better defined.
  • AF said a range of organisations. Including health ones, would be involved and the Advisory Panel will create short life working groups enabling a wider range of expert input to its work.
  • LG stated she supported the use of short life working groups.
  • PM indicated membership should be kept under review so that the Panel’s members reflect current policy development at the time and not to rely solely on the use of sub-groups to provide “innovative thinking”. AF agreed.
  • AB asked what the implementation timescales were. AMacl indicated that it is subject to Ministerial approval, but that it is unlikely to be before the December Forum meeting date, which will likely be the last meeting of the Forum in its current state.
  • The Forum agreed that Option 3 should be taken forward.

Action Points:

  • SG with support from the Chair will finalise the proposed Remit in light of comments made.
  • SG officials will seek Ministerial approval for the revised governance arrangements and confirmation of the new Panel and Advisory Group’s membership and Chairs, in due course.

4. Programme Updates

  • AMacl said that the glossary produced to accompany the update reports requires further refinement which will be provided for the next meeting.

Warmer Homes Scotland

  • AMacl provided a brief summary of progress to date. WHS delivery is likely to exceed the allocated budget and the ongoing high performance against KPIs.
  • The Warmworks annual report for 2016/17 had been published, and the SG’s annual review of the scheme is underway.

HEEPS Delivery Report 2015-16

  • HEEPS: ABS programme for 2015/16 is complete and the 2016/17 programme is on-going. Uptake of loans versus grants has been low to date.
  • ECO continues to deliver a good return for Scotland. There is no update on SG’s approach to implementing the new devolved powers on ECO. An update on this will be provided in due course. Discussions on regulations are on-going with BEIS. An update on progress of SEEP Pilots was provided, a number of local authorities were using the funding to test models for introducing ‘local heat and energy efficiency strategies’ (LHEES).

Feedback from Forum Members:

  • DS requested that the SG circulate information on HEEPS loans for RSLs and asked whether low interest loans will be an on-going measure. AMacl responded that it was an ambition to be able to continue to provide 0% interest loans, although there were restrictions around the amount SG could offer due to State Aid rules.
  • AMacl provided further information on WHS, highlighting that initial steps have been taken to reduce demand given the potential to exceed the available budget. Additional money to support the scheme was being sought internally, but this couldn’t be guaranteed..
  • DB argued that those schemes that have the biggest positive impact on reducing fuel poverty must be protected.
  • AF suggested that this will form part of the function of the new Advisory Panel– the Panel will need to assess what impact measures are having. But AF indicated that to be able to do this will require more information to be made available.
  • AMacl advised that a robust assessment of impact is not possible without “before and after” data being available. The quality of data available varies by programme – WHS collates more data than ABS schemes, and this data suggests that a positive impact is being made. The issue for ABS schemes is the time and cost involved for local authorities to gather the necessary information being requested.
  • LG argued that if the evidence suggests that WHS is targeting the fuel poor then we should be increasing its budget, and reallocating funding from elsewhere, while retaining some restrictions on qualifying income benefits. However, LG also highlighted that there can also be households in fuel poverty, such as those in the private rented sector, who do not receive benefits.
  • LR asked whether it is possible for WHS to lever in ECO money to support the scheme in order to draw on private sector finance rather than relying on customer contributions.
  • SC argued that to exclude homes below the “tolerable standard” is wrong, because non-traditional housing have a high requirement for energy efficiency measures to be installed in order to tackle fuel poverty and reduce negative health impacts. An alternative funding stream for these properties is needed. SC went on to argue against the introduction of a 2020 target for energy efficiency standards, suggesting that there should be one long-term target for 2032 under EESSH.
  • AMacl advised that private sector landlords will still have a duty to attend to measures (e.g. to improve heating The use of welfare (income) benefits as proxies for fuel poverty is the best approach without actual income data. The number of homes that fall below the “tolerable standard” is a very low percentage, and that it is best to bring them up to standard first before investing in energy efficiency measures. EESSH is not something that falls within the scope of the Forum, but that an update on the review of the scheme (which is on-going) will be provided to the Forum in due course.
  • DB requested more data on the breakdown of spend under ECO be made available.
  • PM pointed out that DLA will not be around forever and that this is something that should be monitored in terms of recognising the potential impact of removal of DLA on whether or not someone is then excluded from fuel poverty support schemes.

Action Points:

  • SG to refine the HEEPS Programme Update Report Glossary to include meaning of terms used.
  • SG to provide an update on progress towards implementation of the new devolved powers for ECO (and other relevant measures) at the Forum’s next meeting in December.
  • SG to circulate further information on HEEPS: Loans to Forum members.
  • SG to provide an update on the review of EESSH in due course.
  • SG to provide more information on the breakdown of ECO spend in Scotland.

5. Social Security Bill – Giving Evidence to Committee

  • NK updated the Forum on a request received from the Scottish Parliament Social Security Committee to provide evidence on the Social Security Bill (in the context of fuel poverty). Due to AF not being available, NK indicated he will be attending. NK indicated that, due to timescales, a formal paper submission on behalf of the Forum was not feasible, but he recognised that some Forum members may be submitting their own evidence on behalf of their respective organisations and in order for him to avoid saying anything at Committee that may contradict their submissions he was looking for input from the Forum.
  • NK indicated he intends to focus on Warm Homes Discount (WHD) and Cold Weather Payments (CWP) – he indicated that the view of Energy Action Scotland (EAS) on these is that the powers should be used in a more imaginative way in Scotland. NK asked the Forum whether he should be expanding beyond these two areas. Also, NK asked if the two benefits be universal and indicated that the opinion of EAS was that they should as otherwise the administration costs associated with their provision increases.
  • DS indicated that the SFHA response focused more on wider benefits provision, but that it did suggest that benefits provision should recognise areas, i.e. those in SSE supply network areas in the highlands should receive higher benefits.
  • LG said that she would share Shelter’s response with NK, and that it would reflect NK’s response in order to ensure alignment.
  • JE said that he agreed with NK’s proposed focus on the two identified benefits, and also suggested more generally that a benefits check focused on increasing incomes is key to raising people out of fuel poverty.
  • PM stated that in developing the Social Security Bill the SG must be conscious of its wider impact on any other policies created through changes in welfare provision.
  • DB added that the proposed Bill is so high level it is difficult to identify and understand the “nuts and bolts” of how it will work in practice – there is a need to ensure that the focus is on the right level of legislation (primary versus secondary). NK responded indicating that he recognises any change to legislation that makes it too narrow in focus means that you limit the impact of the regulations.
  • AF invited Forum members to share their respective organisation’s response to the Committee’s call for evidence with NK.

Action points :

  • NK to circulate EAS’ submission to the Parliamentary Committee with the Forum.
  • LG to share Shelter’s submission, JE to share Age Scotland’s submission, and PM to share health organisations’ submission to the Parliamentary Committee with NK ahead of his appearance to give evidence.

6. Home Energy Scotland – EST Presentation

  • LM provided a summary of Home Energy Scotland (HES) achievements to date, covering the following areas: advice provision; HES Homecare pilot; partnerships; and delivery against programme objectives.
  • LM indicated that in total HES has delivered £130 million savings to customers during 2016/17.
  • LM invited Forum members to approach HES to establish new partnerships, indicating that she was happy to meet with respective organisation to discuss the opportunities.
  • AF thanked LM for the presentation, indicating that the summary of HES successes was very positive and that the case studies of impact were welcomed.
  • NK queried a quoted impact of “£75 electricity bills per year reduced to £45 per year” – LM committed to investigating if this was accurate.
  • AMK asked whether the quoted figure of £2.32 million in additional annual benefits for customers delivered through HES was an estimate, or based on actual benefits received. LM responded indicating that DWP cannot provide actual data – the figure is based on 100 phone call conducted by Citizens Advice Direct and 100 phone calls conducted by DWP to customers asking about what benefits they received. The figure is therefore an estimate only. LM highlighted that it costs money to do a proper assessment but that it was likely that something similar to previous survey will need to be done again.
  • SO indicated that SSE have set up a partnership with HES and he encouraged other members of the Forum to do the same.

Action Point :

  • LM to confirm if figures quoted in terms of impact of HES support on electricity bills reduction in case study was accurate, and if not, to provide an amendment.

7. AOB

  • LG asked whether analysis of the REEPS consultation responses will be available by the end of August. AMacl indicated that this would be published in the autumn.
  • SC made the Forum aware of a SHEEN consultation event due to be held (date TBC), and indicated all were welcome to attend. SC offered to provide details.
  • AF thanked the Forum for his time as Chair, indicating that this would be his last meeting in that capacity and that a replacement Chair will be announced in due course, in line with the agreed changes to the Forum’s governance arrangements to be approved by the Minister.

Action Point :

  • SG to circulate details of the SHEEN consultation event to the Forum on behalf of SC.
FORUM ACTIONS TRACKER
TOPIC ACTION RESPONSIBILITY
Future of Forum · Refine the proposed Remit for the new governance arrangements under Option 3 to reflect the comments made · Seek Ministerial approval for the revised governance arrangements and confirmation of the new Panel and Advisory Group’s membership and Chair. Scottish Government
Programme Updates · Provide additional data on households helped through HEEPS. · Refine the HEEPS Programme Update Report glossary, to include meaning of terms used. · Provide an update on new devolved powers for ECO (and other relevant measures). · Circulate further information on HEEPS loans to Forum members. · Provide an update on the review of EESSH in due course. · Provide more information on the breakdown of spend via ECO in Scotland. Scottish Government
Social Security Committee – Giving Evidence · Circulate EAS’s submission to the Parliamentary Committee with the Forum. · LG to share Shelter’s submission, JE to share Age Scotland’s submission, and PM to share health organisations’ submission to the Parliamentary Committee with NK. To be completed in time for NK’s appearance at Committee. Scottish Government (with support from NK) Forum Members, as identified
HES Progress Update · Confirm if figures quoted in terms of impact of HES support on electricity bills reduction in case study was accurate, and if not, to provide an amendment. LM
Consultation Engagement · Circulate details of the SHEEN consultation event to the Forum on behalf of SC. Scottish Government