The Department of Energy and Climate Change has published figures suggesting the total number of households in the UK that can be classed as living in fuel poverty is on the increase.
According to the official figures, an additional 700,000 homes became fuel poor in 2009. The total number of fuel poor households in the UK now stands at 5.5 million, which is approximately 20 per cent of all homes in the country.
The Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) added that a further 100,000 households are expected to join the ranks of the fuel poor in 2011, but following recent energy bill increases, this number is likely to be much higher. Fuel poverty is defined as any household that spends more than 10 per cent of its total income on energy (gas and electricity).
Charity Director at Age UK, Michelle Mitchell, questioned the wisdom of phasing out the Warm Front scheme, which the Coalition Government wants to scrap before next year. Ms Mitchell said: “The promised solutions contained in the [Government’s] Green Deal don’t come into force until late 2012 – too late for the millions of people struggling to heat their homes this winter”.
Meanwhile, Dave Timms, a Friends of the Earth campaigner, said: “It is a national disgrace that millions of people were suffering in cold homes they can’t afford to heat – insulating them properly would help vulnerable households save money on fuel bills and stay warm and healthy”.
As the Government presses on with plans to cut fuel bill subsidies and while energy providers continue to raise prices to protect record profit margins, Climate Change Minister Greg Barker seized the opportunity to blame the previous Government for the crisis.
Speaking to BBC Radio 4, Mr Barker said: “The fact is that homes in the UK are amongst the most expensive to heat in Europe, yet we don’t have the most expensive gas and energy prices.
“Next year the most ambitious home improvement since the second world war [will start], where we’re not just putting a bit of lagging in people’s lofts, but [will] transform, on a whole house basis, millions of homes over the next decade”.
Many would argue next year will see too little come too late.