The Choice Between Heating and Eating

Campaign group lobbies to end fuel poverty

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Around one in seven households in the Ealing, Acton and Shepherd's Bush constituency spend 10% or more of their income on energy bills, according to figures released by Consumer Focus.

The figures show that 7,024 households (14.6%) in the area are struggling to afford to heat their homes and are living in so-called 'fuel poverty'. This compares to 7,991 households (14.2%) in the parliamentary constituency of Hammersmith and Fulham and 9,085 (14.7%) in Kensington and Chelsea.

Consumer Focus say recent energy price cuts have had little impact, and that many of the poorest older people, disabled people, and families are cutting back on their heating or other essentials as a result, which could put their health at risk. They say this is particularly worrying as the colder winter this year is likely to lead to a higher number of excess winter deaths.

The campaign group say they are urging MPs to attend Parliament on Friday 20 March to vote for a Fuel Poverty Bill, being tabled by LibDem MP David Heath. The Bill will bring in a major energy efficiency programme to bring existing homes up to the current energy efficiency levels enjoyed by modern homes, as well as introducing social tariffs to limit vulnerable households’ exposure to high energy bills.

Consumer Focus fuel poverty campaigner Jonathan Stearn said: “The devastating impact of high energy prices on those living in fuel poverty can be ended by making homes much more energy efficient. However, we need the support of MPs, not just warm words, if they are to help bring thousands of their poorest constituents in from the cold,” he said.

“By writing to their local MP to ask that they support the Bill, people can help to lift millions of the poorest consumers out of fuel poverty and improve the environment for future generations.”

Liberal Democrat Parliamentary Spokeswoman for Hammersmith, Merlene Emerson says the local figures include four out of five single pensioner households who are living in fuel poverty: “It’s not hard to see the culprit. Over the last five years average gas and electricity bills have more than doubled. The prices being paid by energy companies for fuel on the wholesale markets are coming down, but the companies aren’t passing on the cuts to their customers. And meanwhile they are making big profits. This is totally unacceptable," she said.

“As recession bites an increasing number of people are being faced with the dreadful choice between heating and eating.”

The campaigning bodies supporting the Bill include: Age Concern England, the Association for the Conservation of Energy, the Centre for Sustainable Energy, Child Poverty Action Group, Consumer Focus, Disability Alliance, Friends of the Earth, Help the Aged, National Right to Fuel Campaign and Sustainable Energy Partnership.

4 March 2009