Nearly half of all households who cannot afford to heat their homes are in work, a shocking new report reveals.
Damning research from the right-wing think tank Policy Exchange, reveals how the Government is spending less than half of the £1.2 billion needed to tackle fuel poverty in England.
The government is currently investing £490 million a year to move all fuel poor homes in England to a ‘Band C’ energy efficiency rating by 2030. However, Policy Exchange has estimated the true cost to be £1.2 billion a year, leaving a £700 million per year funding gap.
‘Despite some recent improvement, the UK’s housing stock remains woefully inefficient compared to other European countries’, says Policy Exchange.
Policy Exchange calculates that fuel poor households would need to spend up to £1,700 extra a year to heat their homes to a suitable level (between 18 and 20 degrees Celsius).
Just over 1.1 million working households in England are classed as ‘fuel poor’, with 10% of all households in England now living in fuel poverty. The problem is most severe in rural communities, where many homes are off the gas grid.
The research also shows that fuel poverty has been made worse by rising energy bills, with gas prices rising by 128% over the last 10 years.
The findings may play into the hands of the Labour Party, who have pledged to freeze energy prices for 20 months if they win the next general election. Labour claim the move could save average households £120, but cost energy companies around £4.5 billion.
Policy Exchange suggests three ways to meet the gap in current Government funding:
- Energy efficiency subsidies should be more focused on fuel poor households. At present, only 33% of fuel poverty funding actually benefits the fuel poor. Refocusing the Energy Company Obligation (ECO) scheme on fuel poor households would raise £375million a year to allocate to fuel poor households.
- Only 10% of Winter Fuel Payment recipients are actually in fuel poverty. Introducing an ‘opt-in’ for the Winter Fuel Payment could save £400million a year which could be reallocated into energy efficiency measures for the fuel poor.
- Energy efficiency should be viewed as a ‘Top 40’ national infrastructure priority – utilising some of the government’s £100billion infrastructure budget over the next five years.
Author of the report, Richard Howard, said: “The facts paint a startling picture. There are over one million working households struggling to afford their energy bills, and living in under-heated homes.”
A government spokesperson said: “Fuel poverty has fallen year on year under this government, and we’re spending more than ever before to ensure more people stay warm this winter”.
Ed Miliband has challenged David Cameron to fast track legislation giving Ofgem the power to cut energy bills. The Labour leader has also called for a new measure on living standards.
Ed Miliband said: “The key test for success of an economic policy is its impact on living standards for working people and the next government will take radical action to restore the link between the wealth of our nation and family finances.
“Millions of people have been ripped off by the big energy firms who never seem to pass on savings to customers. In the last year, wholesale energy costs have fallen by between 9 per cent and 20 per cent but no supplier has reduced the price of their standard tariff.
“The next government is committed to making to [sic] big changes in our energy market: freezing energy prices until 2017 so that bills can fall but not rise, resetting the market and bringing in a tough new regulator to stop the rip-offs in the future.
He added: “But now George Osborne, who used to warn such measures were impossible, is claiming he understands that the energy market is broken. So next week, we’ll give him, David Cameron and Nick Clegg the chance to help all those families they have been ripped off by the energy companies under this government.
“They have been making noises about energy bills. Now they can put their money where their mouth is because, if we work across party lines, we can bring in new powers for the regulator to cut bills and force energy firms to pass on savings to consumers.
“This can begin in Wednesday with a vote in the House of Commons on fast track legislation.
“This zombie Government has had no new meaningful legislation for months. But, with this vote Parliament can require the government to bring forward fast-track legislation. It would mean we would still do some good before Parliament is dissolved before the General Election. All it takes is other parties to abandon their previous opposition to fixing our broken energy market.”
Source – Welfare Weekly, 11 Jan 2015
A charity is urging the Government to take urgent action to help more than 250,000 households in the North-East and many more across the UK living in fuel poverty.
National Energy Action (NEA) estimates 276,782 households in the North-East are unable to heat their home to a comfortable and healthy level – 8.9 per cent of the population.
In Yorkshire and the Humber this figure stands at 244,850 – 10.9 per cent of the population.
Last year, 1,710 of the 5,700 excess winter deaths across both regions were attributed to cold homes.
And NEA claims one person dies every five minutes due to the “UK cold homes crisis,” with an estimated 4.5 million British homes affected.
Research has revealed many vulnerable people are forced to choose between eating properly and heating their homes due to soaring energy prices and dwindling incomes.
In response, NEA has joined forces with other charities, local authorities, health agencies, community groups, MPs and energy efficiency installers and manufacturers, to urge the Government to take action.
Its Warm Home Campaign calls on the Government to provide automatic energy discounts and targeted energy efficient measures to low income families and vulnerable people in hard to heat homes.
Phil Wilson, Labour MP for Sedgefield, County Durham, has backed the campaign.
In his constituency, an estimated 3,756 households are living in fuel poverty.
“It is devastating and something needs to be done – people’s lives are at risk,” he said.
“Having a warm home is something many of us can take for granted and it is important we raise awareness of the full extent of the problem.
Maria Wardrobe, director of external affairs at NEA, said:
“The Prime Minister, ministers and MPs have been forewarned that local health services will not be able to cope this winter with cold-related hospital admissions and repeat GP visits.
“The NHS is currently bearing a yearly burden of £1.5bn treating cold related illnesses and 10,000 lives could have been saved last year alone.
“In the longer term we need an ambitious fuel poverty strategy that prioritises the improvement of energy efficiency in low-income households.”
For more information about the campaign or to make a donation to NEA visit nea.org.uk
Source – Northern Echo, 01 Jan 2015
> I think it’s worth adding a comment made – by workingagepoor – to the above item…
I am not the only one but I cannot afford to heat my home exccept for very short periods of time. No amount of energy efficiency or other measures alter this fact.
Safety messages such as keep one room in your house are meaningless if you cannot afford to turn your heating on.
The temperature in my house is often below that which we are told places a person at risk of hypothermia.
Each slight percentage fall in my income makes this situation worse. Poor people don’t know how to cook, are feckless, scrounge benefits, work will make you better off are the messages that today’s politicians send us.
I can survive, I will fight but when will people wake up and start seeing what is being done to those at the lower end of society.
Meanwhile whilst people sit in their cold homes that have been made colder by austerity measures placed upon them so that they pay for the deficit brought on by greed and corruption by politicians and financiers who protect their own wealth by inflicting hardship upon others.
Bombs are being dropped on people of another nation in yet another conflict at great expense. These people and others that we have inflicted pain and misery upon are also fighting back. Politicians cannot realise that ultimately all of this cruelty comes back to them.
Pause to consider what we are becoming. Do not commemorate wars that killed millions. Stop being blinkered. Don’t think of how you yourself can be better off. Help those less fortunate than yourself.
Peace and kindness will bring more warmth to a person than any amount of heating. I have a roof over my head for which I am grateful but I do not want to be a part of a system that destroys the homes, children and lives of others.