Inverness councillors have agreed to top up the city’s Winter Payments scheme to £138.
The Inverness Winter Payments Scheme helps the most vulnerable families in the city to meet the cost of heating their homes.
Councillors have extended the deadline from February 28, 2022 to April 30, 2022. The maximum payment has increased from £88 to £138.
Inverness Common Good Fund will cover the extra cost, with £100,000 set aside.
The fund is open to households in Aird and Loch Ness, Inverness West, Inverness Central, Inverness Ness-side, Inverness Millburn, Culloden and Ardersier and Inverness South.
To qualify, applicants must be in receipt of certain benefits. The full criteria can be found on the council’s website.
If a household has already received their £88 winter payment, the council will send out an additional £50 top up.
The extra funding aims to offset the sharp increase in gas prices. On 1 April 2022, the energy price cap will increase 54%, costing the average household nearly £700 a year extra.
‘How on earth can families meet this?’
The proposal started out as a motion by SNP councillors Ken Gowans and Glynis Sinclair, before arriving to Inverness committee as an official council proposal.
Both councillors said they were happy to support the plan, and withdraw their motion.
“I agree this is absolutely necessary,” said Mr Gowans.
“This is an unprecedented rise in energy costs at around £700 a year. How on earth are families meant to meet this?”
Mr Gowans added that council may want to consider reviewing the budget for the Inverness Winter Payments Scheme in future.
Council officers say that demand for the fund has increased by 59% over the last six years, and this will continue to rise alongside gas prices.
Councillor Alasdair Christie said: “I’ve been with the Citizens Advice Bureau for 20 years and I’ve never seen anything like this.
“We need to be out there helping people with this, because it’s not going to get better.”