More people die from cold in Britain than in Sweden every winter


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The Independent Online

The cold will kill more people in Britain than in freezing Sweden this winter. That's because so many of us live in woefully insulated homes.

Research published yesterday by campaigning group The Energy Bill Revolution revealed that the cold kills more than 20,000 people in the UK each winter, 23 per cent more than in Sweden as a proportion of all deaths.

Meanwhile, the share of British people who cannot afford to heat their homes is four times higher than in the Scandinavian nation, where winter temperatures regularly plunge as low as -30 degrees centigrade.

Ed Matthew, director of the Energy Bill Revolution, said: "That more people die from the cold every year in temperate Britain than in freezing Sweden is an embarrassment and a tragedy."

Swedish families pay twice as much for gas to heat their homes as those in Britain while levels of disposable income are nearly identical in the two countries.

Despite this, the proportion of families who are living in fuel poverty is 70 per cent higher in Britain than in Sweden. More than 10 million British families live in a home with a leaking roof, damp walls or rotting windows, a rate almost twice as high as that of Sweden.

"George Osborne has an opportunity when he gives his Autumn Statement in two weeks' time to solve this problem once and for all, by increasing funding for energy efficiency," said Mr Matthew. "If he cuts the energy efficiency budget he will be condemning people to death."

Next Tuesday fuel poverty campaigners will be marching on the offices of the UK's big energy suppliers. A range of anti-austerity groups including Fuel Poverty Action, UK Uncut, Disabled People Against Cuts and the Greater London Pensioners Association will target Npower in the City of London.

Further protests are to take place at British Gas's new HQ in Oxford, and at Lewes and Bristol. The campaigners will march under the banner "Bring down the Big Six – Fuel Poverty Kills!"

On Tuesday morning they will deliver a coffin filled with energy bills and a "peoples' invoice" to German-owned Npower to recover energy as a public good. In addition, a speak-out will be held where those hardest hit by fuel poverty will tell of their experiences.

Npower is the UK's most complained-about energy company. It received 202.5 complaints per 100,000 customers between April and June, double that of its nearest rival, EDF.

Meanwhile the company's UK boss, Paul Massara – who reportedly earns more than £1m a year – recently caused outrage when he suggested that to beat fuel poverty the company's customers should simply not turn the heating on.

James Grainger of Fuel Poverty Action said: "The Big Six are lying to us when they say the problem is green taxes. The real problems are their profiteering and the rising cost of polluting energy.

"Energy is a basic need, too important to be left in the hands of profit-hungry private companies. A combination of publicly owned and community-controlled renewable energy – alongside mass insulation – is the way to bring bills down and stop people dying from cold," he said.

Details of the demonstration are at

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