Today (Friday 17 February) I’m supporting Fuel Poverty Awareness Day – the national campaign, organised by charity National Energy Action (NEA), to highlight the problem of fuel poverty.
It’s a scandal that, in Bristol West alone, 8983 households (15.9 per cent) live in fuel poverty, according to the government’s own data. And, nationwide, over four million households are unable to afford the energy they need to stay warm and healthy in their homes. It’s obviously a particular problem for those on low incomes who live in energy-inefficient homes that are expensive to heat.
Living in a cold, damp home can lead to very poor health – especially in those who are vulnerable, such as older people, young children, and those with disabilities. This also places a huge strain on our already stretched health services. According to the NEA, cold-related ill health costs the NHS £1.35 billion each year. Even worse, in the year 2014/5 there were 43,000 excess winter deaths, with at least 14,000 of these attributable to cold homes. Without proper interventions, these figures are set to get worse.
Eradicating fuel poverty is, in fact, a statutory target to be met by the government. But it’s failing to achieve this target because it won’t commit to proper funding. Year on year, it has actually cut funding. In the last Parliament, major energy efficiency measures installed in homes declined by 80 per cent, and it’s estimated there will be a further decline of 73 per cent this Parliament. The total level of investment has declined by 53 per cent between 2010 and 2015.
Clearly much more needs to be done nationally. We should, for example, make energy efficiency a major infrastructure priority; insulate more homes; build new carbon-neutral homes; require landlords to ensure their properties meet minimum standards of energy efficiency. However, I do know there is good work going on in my constituency and across the UK to tackle the problem. This morning, for example, I visited an excellent development of well insulated, energy-efficient homes, 20 per cent of which are owned by a housing association. In the next development they're planning to increase this proportion.
I’ll continue to work alongside others in the community to help raise awareness, and continue to press the government to make ending fuel poverty a priority, so that nobody is forced to live in a cold home.
For more information on National Energy Action visit www.nea.org.uk
Latest government statistics indicate that there are over 4 million UK households in fuel poverty. Fuel poverty is caused by a combination of low incomes, high energy prices and poor quality energy-inefficient housing. https://www.gov.uk/government/collections/fuel-poverty-statistics
Statistics for each constituency are available at http://www.fpeeg.org.uk/
Fuel Poverty Awareness Day is coordinated by NEA and supported by many organisations across the UK. For more information visit http://www.nea.org.uk/campaigns-policy/fuel-poverty-awareness-day/