Page last updated at 07:14 GMT, Wednesday, 30 July 2008 08:14 UK

'Winter costs are now a worry'

Anne Thomson, 41, lives with her partner and children on South Uist and works as a money adviser.

Anne kept a diary of their weekly spending across a week as part of a panel letting us know their views on the cost of living.


Anne Thomson

Keeping a spending diary for a week and getting the whole family involved has got us all talking about other issues too.

Everyone here has their own story of how rising prices are affecting them and many have been moved to sign the fuel campaign petition raised by the local paper 'Am Paipear'.

Word is that the Chancellor is coming to the islands on holiday so hopefully he will get some insight into the issues when he's here.

There is great excitement about RET - or road equivalent tariff - which is to start between the Western Isles and the mainland.

But with fuel prices rising, there's a concern that, like the Air Discount Scheme, the discounted fares will catch up with the current standard fares all too quickly.

Over the last two years, the air fare we use to Inverness has increased by around 40% which, strangely enough, is the level of discount that islanders can claim.

Another concern locally is nutrition - one of the first casualties with rising food prices.

The free milk and fruit schemes were cut back in the schools last year - yet it could be of real and immediate benefit if funds were made available to have the schemes fully reinstated and extended to other vulnerable groups.

See Anne's diary of living costs

It's been an interesting week doing the spending diary.

No surprise at what we spend on food, but taking part has made us stop and think about the coming winter.

We phoned the electricity provider to ask to come off pre-payment.

Uist cattle
Thoughts on the island are beginning to turn to winter costs

The engineer came to change the meter and now our payment is by direct debit, spread evenly through the year, so hopefully winter costs will be easier to manage.

Many households here have a pre-payment meter - but power can cost up to 7% more.

Some electricity customers have no choice but to use pre-payment and it's harsh that it's often those on the lowest incomes who end up paying more.

Ideally we would like to have a small wind generator.

The outlay is beyond our means at present but we'll keep an eye on developments and hope that kits become more affordable.




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