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Cold Weather Payment

Volume 483: debated on Monday 24 November 2008

1. How many households in Milton Keynes he estimates will be eligible for cold weather payments if the temperature falls below the level which triggers payment of the allowance in 2008-09. (237962)

We estimate that the number of households that would be eligible this winter for a cold weather payment in Milton Keynes, should such payments be triggered, is 84,000.

I am sure that my constituents will welcome the extra money should it be required, but would it not be a better long-term solution to insulate more houses more effectively? Is my right hon. Friend’s Department considering sharing data with other Departments, so that Warm Front grants, for example, can be more effectively targeted at those who are known to be on low incomes because they are in receipt of various benefits?

My hon. Friend raises the important question of how we get the information to people who may be eligible. As I am sure that she knows, people on certain means-tested benefits are eligible for Warm Front grants, but they have to claim them. We are working with the Department for Energy and Climate Change to make sure that we can use some of the ways that we used to ensure that people on lower incomes were aware of benefits such as pension credit. We will work with the Department for Energy and Climate Change on that basis.

Of course, many of the households in Milton Keynes that the Minister mentioned will be made up of pensioners, who will be delighted that finally, after months of dithering, the Government have renewed the Post Office card account contract. Does she not believe that those pensioners should be allowed to use that account to pay their utility bills, so that they can enjoy the benefits gained by others who pay by direct debit?

Pensioners are already able to arrange a direct debit payment with other banks, but in the longer term, we will of course look at ways in which the Post Office card account could increase its functionality.