Earlier this summer I visited Caen Hill Marina to meet local boaters and discuss how to resolve the continuing exclusion of many boat dwellers, both with and without moorings, from the Energy Bill Support Scheme Alternative Funding (EBSS AF). Unfortunately, this is something that has taken longer than I had hoped to sort out, though I have been working hard with Government to move faster on this and ensure that those who have, so far, missed out on their energy payments, will be able to receive them.
I was delighted then to hear some positive news last week, with the introduction of a new scheme for “continuous cruisers” which means they will now be able to receive the energy grants. Essentially, this is a scheme which guarantees the distribution of £600 from September 2023, specifically to people living on houseboats and continuously cruising – ie not staying in one place for more than 14 days.
Whilst it’s excellent to see a new scheme announced and any success for boaters and boater advocacy groups should be celebrated, regrettably, the news is not all rosy. It would seem certain groups are still excluded from the scheme, such as those in Caen Hill Marina – namely “Liveaboard boaters with non-residential moorings”.
I am conscious of the need to stand up and fight for these people. The Government promised to help “all households” through a difficult winter and I am determined to hold them to account on this and I will continue to push for further action.
As such, I have promised to follow up with the Department for Energy Security & Net Zero (ESNZ) and support the current inquiry being run by Angus MacNeil, chair of the ESNZ select committee, into Preparing for the Winter, including the continued exclusion of boat dwellers and other off-grid households from the Government’s Energy Bills Support Scheme (EBSS).
As I understand it, more specifically the inquiry will look at the lessons that can be learnt from last year’s shortcomings and will press to ensure that the right protections are in place for consumers this winter. The Committee will hear verbal and written evidence in September 2023.
In addition to this, I have written to Amanda Solloway MP, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State, (Minister for Energy Consumers and Affordability) asking if any consideration is being given to compensate those who missed out on last year’s scheme and to gain a better understanding as to why the Government failed to get the support that was promised to “all households”. I also asked what the intention is for future government schemes to avoid discrimination against boaters and whether any thought has been given to granting greater discretion to local authorities to determine eligibility.
If there is still no agreement to reopen discussions about a scheme for all boaters, I will gather cross-party support from concerned MPs, requesting a meeting with the Minister, so that all boaters may get the support they need this winter.