‘Warm banks’ are set to open in East Renfrewshire to help residents struggling with soaring energy bills this winter - as warnings came that 19,000 homes could be pushed into fuel poverty.

East Renfrewshire Council is working with community organisations on a ‘warm spaces’ initiative and has set aside £100,000 for the project.

Venues have yet to be confirmed but the council has said its approach will be “community-led”, building on activities already taking place in the area.

A report to the council’s cabinet revealed analysis by the Glasgow City Region’s intelligence hub had found around 19,000 additional households in East Renfrewshire could be in fuel poverty - which means spending over 10% of net income on fuel - by January.

“It is evident from increasing benefit claims and people seeking debt advice and assistance that the situation has already reached crisis point for many,” the report added.

“And it is anticipated that things will only worsen as we approach autumn and winter.”

READ MORE: Old Kilpatrick Food Parcels launches 'warm hub' as people struggle to heat home

The £100,000 for ‘warm spaces’ was part of a total support package worth £4.4m for residents and businesses. Other fuel support measures include funding for “emergency and low-cost” help such as draught excluders and curtain linings. 

Fuel poverty officer and energy advisor roles have also been funded to help residents clear debt and sustain payments. Money will be distributed to organisations to enhance community activities, advice sessions or drop-ins as part of the ‘warm spaces’ initiative. 

Officials reported the council will work “closely with the third sector to develop this initiative, which will build on existing activities and advice services across a range of sites throughout East Renfrewshire and identify gaps in provision”.

After the measures were announced, council leader Owen O’Donnell, Labour, said residents are “facing unprecedented struggles as the cost-of-living crisis deepens”.

He added the “vital” support would provide “meaningful assistance to people during this difficult period”. 

“Many will be pushed further into poverty this winter including those who are facing food and fuel poverty for the first time and I’d encourage anyone struggling in these times to access the help and advice available.”

Councils across Scotland are considering opening ‘warm banks’ amid the cost-of-living crisis. In Glasgow, the first ‘welcome spaces’ opened this week in 17 venues across the city, including libraries and community centres.

Three charities - Poverty Alliance, Trussell Trust Scotland and the Cyrenians - have urged caution over ‘warm banks’ which they do not want to become as established as food banks.

In a statement, the Poverty Alliance said UK Government interventions on energy costs and cost of living are “not sufficient to protect people from poverty this winter, especially those already struggling to make ends meet”.

It added: “While a compassionate response to an emergency situation may include dignified and attractive warm places hosted within communities, these cannot meet our aspirations to protect and respect our human rights and to ensure that people are treated with dignity at all times.

“It is important to ensure that we do not repeat past mistakes where community responses to income crises become hard-wired into the state’s response to poverty.”

The charity said the focus should be on “ensuring people have enough money to keep their own homes warm”. “A cash first approach is the best way to do this, by investing in the benefits system.”

East Renfrewshire Council has said its proposed “community-led” approach will be in line with Poverty Alliance and Trussell Trust recommendations.