23,000 low income households in South Glos paying over the odds for their broadband as Government fails to act

Computer Network

23,000 low income households in South Gloucestershire are paying too much for their broadband because the Government has not forced providers to offer cheaper tariffs, an analysis by the Liberal Democrats has found.

So-called ‘social tariffs’, which typically offer broadband access between £10 and £20 a month, are only currently offered by some providers. But changes to the law that came into force last year mean that the Government now has the ability to force broadband providers to offer these cheaper deals.

The Liberal Democrats are calling on the Government to offer relief to families facing a cost of living crisis, by forcing broadband providers to offer cheaper deals to vulnerable consumers in South Gloucestershire.

Research by the House of Commons Library suggests that 23,000 households in South Gloucestershire could see a reduction in their bills under the Liberal Democrat proposals. These households are among the seven million across the country that are currently missing out on cheaper internet access.

Claire Young, leader of the Liberal Democrat Opposition Group on South Gloucestershire Council, said:

“Some of the most vulnerable consumers in South Gloucestershire are bracing themselves for a cost of living crisis, with energy bills soaring through the roof, a slash to Universal Credit and unfair Tory tax hikes leaving everyone feeling the squeeze.

“A reduction in broadband bills could be the breathing space families in South Gloucestershire need this winter. Instead this Conservative Government is instead choosing to sit on its hands and leave thousands here paying over the odds.”

Liberal Democrat Spokesperson for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, Jamie Stone MP, said: 

“Access to broadband is vital for learning, for work, and for staying connected. The Liberal Democrats think the very least the Government can do is offer the lifeline of social tariffs to anyone who needs it.”

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South Glos Conservative MPs vote to water down sleaze rules

Jack Lopresti & Chris Skidmore

Responding to yesterday’s vote in Parliament in which local Conservative MPs Jack Lopresti (Filton and Bradley Stoke) and Chris Skidmore (Kingswood) voted to water down rules for dealing with MP sleaze and corruption, leader of the Liberal Democrat opposition on South Glos Council, Claire Young said:

“It is shameful that our local Conservative MP voted to water down rules aimed at preventing political sleaze.

“Local constituents deserve better than this stitch up that is dragging our politics through the mud.

“We’ve already seen this government wasting millions of pounds of taxpayers’ money, from dodgy Covid contracts to the refurbishment of Boris Johnson's flat.

“Tough rules and independent scrutiny are vital to prevent yet more sleaze scandals that end up with more public money being wasted."

Luke Hall, Conservative MP for Thornbury and Yate, did not vote. Having made no public comment on the issue, the reasons for this are unclear - it may be that he was simply "paired" with an opposition member who could not vote.

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Only 169 families in South Glos helped by Conservatives’ failed plan to insulate homes

Insulation installation

Only around 169 families in South Gloucestershire have been supported to better insulate their homes under the government’s flagship Green Homes Grant scheme, new figures have revealed.

The scheme was meant to help people upgrade their homes to net-zero standards and cut their energy bills through fitting better insulation or heat pumps, but was scrapped earlier this year after just six months. However, figures uncovered by the Liberal Democrats show how the scheme has failed families in the local area.

The data shows just 169 energy efficiency measures have been installed in homes in South Gloucestershire under the Green Homes Grant scheme. Of these only 58 were for low income households.

The figures have led the Liberal Democrat to accuse the government of “abandoning families” facing soaring energy prices this winter and condemning them to eye-watering heating bills in future.

The Green Homes Grant was launched in September 2020 promising to upgrade 600,000 homes, with vouchers of up to £10,000 to make their homes more energy efficient or replace old boilers. However it was scrapped just six months later following low take-up and severe mismanagement. The latest figures reveal that across the country only 39,474 homes have been helped under the scheme, including 22,000 low-income households.

Applications made before March 2021 are still being processed, but most have now been finalised. There was also no replacement scheme announced at last week’s Budget, meaning homeowners are being left with no direct government support for green home improvements. 

The Liberal Democrats are calling on the government to announce an emergency programme to insulate people’s homes, reduce energy bills and cut the UK’s carbon emissions. It comes as world leaders meet in Glasgow this week at the COP summit to discuss global climate targets.

Claire Young, leader of the Liberal Democrat opposition group on South Glos Council said:  

“It is shocking that so few homes in South Gloucestershire have been helped to insulate their homes through the Green Homes Grant scheme.

“This initiative was launched to much fanfare and was meant to help thousands of people make energy efficiency improvements to their homes. Instead, families are being abandoned ahead of the cold winter months at a time energy bills are soaring.

“The Government must show the UK is a global leader in tackling climate change by launching an emergency programme to insulate our homes, reduce emissions and slash heating bills.

“We need to end fuel poverty and make sure that families in South Gloucestershire aren’t forced to choose between heating and eating.”

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Local Tory MPs fail to make dumping raw sewage in South Glos rivers illegal

All three South Gloucestershire Tory MPs - Luke Hall (Thornbury and Yate), Jack Lopresti (Filton and Bradley Stoke) and Chris Skidmore (Kingswood) - have voted to block an amendment that would have made it illegal for water companies to dump raw sewage into rivers. Several of the small rivers that cost our region, such as the Frome, are potentially at risk following insufficient investment in Sewage Treatment Works. Many took to Social Media to express their outrage at the vote:

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Sir David Amess MP

Sir David Amess MP

We are shocked and saddened to hear of the death of Sir David Amess MP this afternoon. An attack on a democratically elected representative is an attack on all those who struggle, and have struggled, to protect our most basic freedoms. Our thoughts are with his family and friends.

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