The report from the Department of Energy and Climate Change last week estimated that 4.6 million people are in fuel poverty, almost doubled from 2006. A household is said to be “fuel poor” when more than 10% of its income is spent on fuel to maintain an “adequate level of warmth”. A recent 80% increase in Sheffield mirrors the national situation. It is fair to say that increasing fuel prices and the recession have made the government’s task harder. But the target to end fuel poverty by 2016 could still be met if the government listens and acts now.
The Green Party has relentlessly pushed the need for all properties to be properly insulated as part of a “Green New Deal” to cut fuel bills, save energy and create thousands of jobs in the continuing recession. Sheffield council’s free insulation programme is a step in the right direction but many won’t benefit from a scheme that covers only lofts and cavity walls. However, the government should be taking the lead, enabling councils to fund schemes to cover all householders.
Andrew Harrop, of Age Concern and Help the Aged, said: “The human cost of fuel poverty is great, particularly among vulnerable older people.” He added that the government did not “deploy anything like enough resource to attack fuel poverty with the urgency that it required”. Winter fuel payments are a sticking plaster for a gaping wound that hits the vulnerable very hard. Healing that wound is a win, win, win situation on fuel bills, energy and jobs. What is stopping the government from making this a priority ?
Sheffield Green Party