The Energy Security and Net Zero (ESNZ) Parliamentary Committee is to carry out an inquiry into Preparing for the Winter, including the continued exclusion of boat dwellers and other itinerant or off-grid households from the Government’s Energy Bills Support Scheme (EBSS). The Committee will hear verbal and written evidence in September 2023. You can send your own testimony to the Committee by email to email@example.com or by post to-Energy Security and Net Zero Committee, House of Commons, London SW1A 0AA. You can submit evidence online here: https://committees.parliament.uk/call-for-evidence/3185/
The deadline for submitting your evidence is 25th August.
ESNZ Committee Chair Angus MacNeil MP said:
“The householders who struggled with the soaring price of heating and lighting their homes during the bitter weather last year must be at the forefront of policymakers’ thinking as we again approach the winter months. Our first inquiry will be looking at the lessons that can be learnt by the Government and Ofgem and will press to ensure that the right protections are in place for consumers this winter”.
Mr MacNeil is due to question Energy Security and Net Zero Secretary Grant Shapps in September, and intends to ask him to relaunch the Energy Bill Support Scheme Alternative Funding and make it easier to use, since “clearly delivery has failed” and the scheme had “missed the most vulnerable”.
The EBSS scheme closed on 31st May 2023 with applications by itinerant boat dwellers still “under review”, meaning that thousands of boat dwellers (and vehicle and caravan dwellers) were never able to apply. The Government Minister responsible, Amanda Solloway MP, said in letters to MPs who had contacted her on behalf of boat dwellers that:
“… opening the scheme to people who can claim, without evidence that could be objectively verified, that they live in a boat or a caravan, would open the scheme to a considerable risk of fraud. At present this means individuals in these circumstances who cannot provide the requisite proof of address cannot currently apply”.
No such concerns about fraud, or the potential waste of Government funds, were raised when the EBSS grant was automatically paid twice to second home owners for both of their homes in Autumn 2022.
A meeting took place on 16th June 2023 between boaters and Devizes MP Danny Kruger to discuss how to resolve the continuing exclusion of many boat dwellers, both with and without moorings, from the EBSS. In the meeting, held at Caen Hill Marina on the Kennet and Avon Canal, Mr Kruger agreed to take the following action:
1. Write to the Ministers at the Department for Energy Security and Net Zero to press for an explanation as to why they have failed to find a satisfactory way of ensuring itinerant boat dwellers get the support that was promised to ‘all households’; possibly including greater discretion for local authorities to determine eligibility.
2. Propose further engagement between officials and representatives from the boater community to take forward the proposals.
3. Press for a retrospective award to cover the expenses boat dwellers incurred last winter, and insist that itinerant households are included in any future scheme, in advance of the coming winter.
4. Depending on the answer from the Government in response to 1 and 2, organise a cross-party letter from concerned MPs requesting a meeting with the Minister.
No update has been received from the Devizes MP yet.
The continued exclusion of boat dwellers from the EBSS was covered by BBC Wiltshire online, BBC Radio Wiltshire, and the Wiltshire Gazette and Herald, who were all present at the meeting. See
https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p0frf8zt – BBC Radio Wiltshire breakfast show 20th June 2023
https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-wiltshire-65945234 – Boat residents ask why they did not get energy bill help