Saturday, January 25, 2020

Next government must commit to ending fuel poverty, say campaigners

More than 15,000 winter deaths in 2017/18 were caused by people living in cold homes.

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Campaigners have called on all major political parties to include a pledge of eradicating fuel poverty in their general election manifestos, which is said to have caused more than 15,000 excess winter deaths last year due to cold homes.

According to the latest available figures, the proportion of English households living in fuel poverty decreased slightly in 2017-18 from 11.1% to 10.9%.

However, the winter of 2017/18 also saw the highest recorded number of Excess Winter Deaths since 1975 – 1976, with 50,100 excess deaths in England & Wales. Of these, 15,030 (30%) were attributable to cold homes.

Households are said to be in fuel poverty when energy costs push them below the poverty line, meaning a household whose annual income is less than 60% of the median national average.

The End Fuel Poverty Coalition is now calling on all major political parties to sign up to four key pledges to eradicate fuel poverty for good. These are:

  1. Declare energy efficiency and eliminating fuel poverty a national infrastructure priority.
  2. Take immediate action to improve the standards of rented homes.
  3. Reform the domestic energy supply market.
  4. End the Benefits Freeze and address the chronic scale of unclaimed benefits

Jacky Peacock, Director of Advice4Renters, said: “Without more ambitious action, people will be condemned to fuel poverty for decades to come.

“As well as the devastating impacts cold homes have on their occupants, the delayed cost of inaction extends to all of us.

“Addressing fuel poverty is a crucial part of meeting new stretching carbon reduction targets. Without a big improvement in current efforts, the government will not meet its climate change targets.”

Ruth London of Fuel Poverty Action, added: “Ending fuel poverty is in our grasp if a National Energy Efficiency Programme is combined with fully funded support for people in fuel poverty, reform of the private rented sector, effective accountability to social housing residents, and proactive, genuinely independent and fully empowered local authority supervision of retrofits and new residential construction.”

The Coalitions says that ending fuel poverty would have huge benefits for both the economy and society, including a £370 annual reduction in household bills.

It would also boost economic growth, create jobs in every constituency of the country and reduce pressure on health and social care services.

There could also be big savings for the NHS because of fewer people seeking medical treatment for cardiovascular, respiratory, and mental health problems.

Peter Smith, Director of Policy and Research at National Energy Action (NEA), said: “Ending fuel poverty is a crucial part of meeting new stretching carbon reduction targets and improving health and well-being.

“The key actions that are necessary are in our grasp and have cross-party support. We hope our recommendations will be acted on by all the main political parties within their manifestos.”

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