Orkney and Shetland MP, Alistair Carmichael, has today challenges ministers over unanswered questions on the operation of the Alternative Fuel Payment to off-grid households.
Mr Carmichael noted that following a call for responses in the Northern Isles, many constituents have found that they have not received the payment despite being eligible, while others may have received the payment despite not expecting it given the government’s criteria – prompting concerns that officials may later “claw back” payments. Mr Carmichael called for urgent clarity from ministers on the issue by Tuesday.
Households may be eligible for the £200 Alternative Fuels Payment if their household is not connected to the mains gas grid and uses alternative fuels (tank or bottled gas, liquid petroleum gas, oil, wood, or solid fuel) as the main form of heating. This means that almost all households in Orkney and Shetland should receive the payment.
Most homes that are eligible for this payment will have received it automatically as a credit on their electricity bills. Some may not have received the payment automatically, generally either because their home is in an area which is mainly connected to the gas grid, or they are not connected to either the gas or the electricity grid. These people will have to apply through the AFP Alternative Fund which will open by the end of February.
Speaking in the House, Mr Carmichael said:
“By the time we come to deal with the Alternative Fuel Payment “pass-through requirement” regulations on Tuesday, can the Leader of the House give me some assurance that the minister will be able to answer the very basic questions that my constituents are asking?
“The payments started landing last week. People who didn’t expect to get them are getting them and people who are obviously entitled to get them are not getting them. I am being inundated by questions from people asking if this money will be clawed back. They will want to have these questions answered, they should to have had them by now – will they at least get them by Tuesday?”
Responding, the Leader of the House Penny Mordaunt MP said:
“I would say two things to him. First of all I will make sure that the Secretary of State has heard what he has said today.
“Anticipating this question I did go on gov.uk, and there is quite a comprehensive set of answers including for this scheme on there. If there are specifics, and he may need them in a timely way, please let me know and I will do my best to ensure he gets answers.”
Reacting after the exchange Mr Carmichael said:
“It is precisely because I and others have been looking at the government website that we know about the growing issues around the Alternative Fuel Payment. The concerns about confused eligibility and the risk of payments being clawed back are because information from the government is so lacking.
“If we do not get proper answers on these questions in the coming days then the frustration amongst people in off-grid homes is only going to intensify. Ministers should consider themselves on notice.”