I am pleased to announce that today I intend to lay regulations to amend the cold weather payment scheme. The changes detailed in these regulations will come into force on 1 November this year, in time for the beginning of the winter period.
The scheme makes cold weather payments to help vulnerable groups during cold periods. Each year the Department reviews the scheme with expert advice from the Met Office and, where necessary, makes changes to regulations to ensure that postcodes are linked to the most appropriate weather station for the purposes of the cold weather payment.
For the 2016-17 season the Met Office has recommended the replacement of one primary weather station and the introduction of an additional new station.
The current station at Skye-Lusa will be closed and have equipment removed by spring 2017. The Met Office has therefore recommended changing to an alternative site at Achnagart to protect the 2016-17 service from any potential risk of earlier disruption to the station at Skye-Lusa.
South Devon, particularly the EX and TQ postcodes, would be better represented by the newly installed station at Exeter airport. The Met Office has recommended including this station as an additional site in the network taking some of the postcodes currently served by Dunkeswell and North Wyke. The Exeter airport site better represents the postcodes along and near the east facing coastline around east Devon, Exeter and parts of Torbay. The more inland and higher altitude sites at Dunkeswell and North Wyke will continue to serve the more inland communities.
The regulations also make other minor changes to the alternative weather stations. This will ensure that the weather station to postcode links are as representative as possible.
The changes to the postcode to weather station links resulted from the Department’s annual review of the cold weather payments scheme. The review drew on expert advice from the Met Office and took account of representations from benefit claimants and Members of Parliament.
I will be writing to each Member who made representations about the administration of the scheme last winter to make them aware of the advice from the Met Office.
Cold weather payments are separate from, and in addition to, winter fuel payments.
For winter 2016-17 the cold weather payment rate will continue to be £25 for each seven day period of very cold weather.
The regulations are being amended so that, in future, revisions can be made without the need for new legislation each time weather station to postcode links change. This will not materially impact on how the scheme operates in practice.
The regulations are also being amended to ensure that where a primary station is unable to provide temperature information or the Met Office is unable to produce a forecast at a primary station, there are adequate procedures for the necessary temperature information or forecast to be obtained from another weather station.