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Government Downplaying Fuel Poverty Figures

The Government is downplaying a minor rise in households suffering hardship due to increasing fuel prices, says a consumer body.

Consumer Focus is claiming the fuel poverty situation is much worse than the Government is letting on, with the number of UK households estimated to be suffering fuel poverty belying the true hardship millions of people are facing, thanks to a rise in fuel costs.

Statistics released by the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) indicate that 4.1m households in England will be trapped in fuel poverty this year –  just 100,000 higher than the figure for 2010 and 2009. However, because four of the “Big Six” energy providers have yet to announce an increase in their energy prices, Consumer Focus believes these predictions are underestimated.

“If these are in line with the increases announced from British Gas and Scottish Power around 12 million people, or 6.4 million British households, are likely to be in fuel poverty when the latest price rises hit,” said Audrey Gallacher, the director of energy at Consumer Focus.

Although the recent price increases announced by Scottish Power and British Gas have been factored into the figures, and some price rises will have an impact on households in the latter half of 2011, the full impact of these won’t be visible in the fuel poverty data until 2012.

In 2008-2009, there were 5.5m fuel poor households in the UK, which was up from 4.8m in the previous year. Northern Ireland had the biggest proportion of households – 43.7% in 2008 – which suffered from fuel poverty, followed by Scotland with 32.7% in 2009, Wales, 26.2% in 2008 and England 18.4% in 2009.

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