Simon Read: Lower fuel bills could cut winter death rate

The energy companies have a lot to answer for. Their sky-high prices are causing hardship for millions in fuel poverty while the massive increase in the winter death rate last year is clearly partly due to older people not being able to afford to turn their heating on.

The Office for National Statistics said this week that 36,700 more people died during December 2008 and March 2009 than the previous year. The excess winter death rate was 25,300 in 2008 revealing a staggering 49 per cent rise. The vast majority of people who died during the winter months were aged over 75. What happened during 2008 that discouraged older people from turning on their heating? During the year, gas bills soared 51 per cent while electricity charges climbed 28 per cent. The move left some three million UK pensioners in fuel poverty, meaning they are now forced to spend at least a tenth of their income on energy bills.

"These people need more money – in the form of the winter fuel allowance – so that they can avoid having to decide whether to heat or eat," says Dot Gibson of the National Pensioners Convention. "All older people need to be reassured that they will not be financially punished for keeping warm in the winter. The Government must give them confidence that they will be able to pay their bills by raising the winter fuel allowance to at least £500 for every household, introducing an industry-wide reduced social tariff for older customers and forcing the energy companies to pass on reductions in prices."

The campaign to force energy companies to change is growing. On Tuesday, John Grogan MP posted an Early Day Motion calling for a Competition Commission investigation into whether the "big six" energy companies are failing to pass on wholesale energy price cuts to consumers. The move was backed by watchdog Consumer Focus, which wrote to all MPs asking them to back the motion. By Thursday evening it only had a disappointing 104 signatures. But there's still time for others to show their support. Write to your own MP and ask them to sign. If enough signatures are added the Government may be forced to act. And if there's action, we could yet save thousands of lives this winter.

s.read@independent.co.uk

Independent Partners; Do you need financial advice on your investments, pension or insurance? Book a free consultation with an independent Financial Adviser at VouchedFor.co.uk

Finacial products from our partners
Property search
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Money & Business

    Ashdown Group: Trainee Consultant - Surrey/ South West London

    £22000 per annum + pension,bonus,career progression: Ashdown Group: An establi...

    Ashdown Group: Trainee Consultant - Surrey / South West London

    £22000 per annum + pension,bonus,career progression: Ashdown Group: An establi...

    Recruitment Genius: Claims Administrator

    £16000 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an excellent opportunit...

    Recruitment Genius: Senior SEO Executive

    £24000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Senior SEO Executive is requi...

    Day In a Page

    Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

    Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

    Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

    Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
    China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

    China's influence on fashion

    At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
    Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

    The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

    Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
    Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

    Rainbow shades

    It's all bright on the night
    'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

    Bread from heaven

    Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
    Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

    How 'the Axe' helped Labour

    UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
    Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

    The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

    A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
    'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

    Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

    Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

    The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
    Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

    Vince Cable exclusive interview

    Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
    Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

    Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

    Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
    Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

    It's time for my close-up

    Meet the man who films great whites for a living
    Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

    Homeless people keep mobile phones

    A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before