ALMOST a third of Dumbarton and the Vale families struggle to adequately heat their homes – but campaigners warn there could be many more in trouble.

A new survey of the energy price crisis hitting the country found 29 per cent of residents in West Dunbartonshire are affected by fuel poverty.

Energy Action Scotland said a quarter of all Scottish households struggled to pay their bills or ensure they had heating.

But local politicians and charity workers have said they expect even more people locally are feeling the impact of having to choose between food and heat.

Clair Coyle, trustee of West Dunbartonshire Community Foodshare, said: “Around 95 per cent of those who contact us advise us they have no or very little gas and electric, and no funds to top up.

“It is a massive issue for people we support. Many report that once they top up their meters there is no money left for food, or vice versa, they purchase food then have no money to top up their meters.

“We are able to top up the pre-payment meters of those at threat of disconnection due to having no funds to use.

“This project has been extremely busy over the last year, but certainly during the winter months we see this increase.

“This is not only an issue for those on benefits, we have many people in low income jobs who require support also.

“We have also been contacted by many people on billed meters seeking support as they cannot pay large fuel bills, we are unable to help with this.”

Energy Action Scotland urged the UK Government to cut VAT on energy bills as well as consider radical reforms to protect vulnerable households.

Frazer Scott, chief executive, added: “Two in every five households cannot afford to heat their home is something that needs to be addressed urgently.”

Dumbarton MSP Jackie Baillie also called for action. She told the Reporter: “At a time when fuel bills are increasing substantially, there will be even more people in fuel poverty, having to make hard choices about their household finances.

“It is really important that both the Scottish and UK governments work together and do more to end fuel poverty. The Scottish Government need to improve building standards and make sure all homes are well insulated and the UK Government should heed Labour’s calls to cancel the VAT cost on fuel bills.

“As bills start to land on doorsteps, many more families will be feeling the pinch and action must be taken to alleviate the impact of high energy prices or even more people will be plunged into fuel poverty this winter.”