Price hikes make battle to eradicate fuel poverty 'extremely challenging'

Eradicating fuel poverty by 2016 will be "extremely challenging" following energy price increases, the Scottish Government has said.

The admission came from infrastructure and capital investment minister Alex Neill, after three of the six biggest energy suppliers confirmed increases in their prices for electricity and gas.

Labour has now called on the Scottish Government to reverse its decision to cut the fuel poverty budget, and call in the Competition Commission to investigate the price rises.

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Scottish & Southern Energy last week announced average increases of 18 per cent for gas and 11 per cent for electricity, to be in place from September.

ScottishPower and British Gas have already announced price increases.

Labour's deputy finance spokeswoman Rhoda Grant said: "If they don't reverse the cut to the fuel poverty budget, the SNP are giving up not just on their promise, but on the thousands of Scots struggling to pay their bills.

"With company after company announcing unfair price hikes, it is our duty to help the poorest and most vulnerable in our society."

However, a spokesman for the Scottish Government said that it remained committed to the 2016 target.