The Guardian has revealed that a quarter of households in the UK are affected by fuel poverty, with figures for England alone showing more than five million homes suffering as a result of stagnating incomes and huge rises in energy prices.
To be classed as fuel poor, households have to spend 10% or more of their income on gas and electricity. Whilst the previous Government had estimated that 2011 would see 4.1 million households affected by fuel poverty, those estimations were calculated prior to the huge price hikes in energy bills announced in the summer.
The news that one in four households are now classed as fuel poor means that the Government will almost certainly fall short of meeting its statutory obligation to stamp out fuel poverty by 2016.
The new figures – based on actual bills, rather than estimations – also reveals sharp regional differences in levels of fuel poverty across England and Wales. People in Wales are struggling more than anywhere else in the UK, with Wales the fuel poverty capital of Britain. An additional half a million households – over 40% of the total – are now fuel poor. In the West Midlands fuel poverty levels are at more than 30% compared to the south-east which has 17%.
While the average household energy bill for a medium energy user in UK for is £1,293 a year, for those who live in Wales it’s £1,312.
The revelation comes days after the Fuel Poverty Action Group staged a ‘die-in’ outside the head offices of energy giant EDF Energy, to highlight fuel poverty related winter deaths. With more and more of us struggling to meet the demands of rising gas and electricity bills, some people literally have to choose between heating their home or eating because they cannot afford to do both.