Simon Read: Rising energy prices will lead to more winter fuel deaths

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The Independent Online

I'm not angry at energy giant SSE which on Thursday announced an 8.2 per cent hike in prices from November. The company is just the first of the Big Six to make a move and the others will certainly follow with similar – or higher – increases.

But the timing of the move saddens me, coming as it does at the start of the colder weather, when people need to turn their heating on more than ever and consumption – and costs – will increase.

The net result – as in every previous year when energy companies started hiking prices in autumn – is that more vulnerable people will turn down – or turn off – their heating to cut costs.

The number of people in fuel poverty – when heating their home takes a tenth or more of their available income – is soaring and could soon pass the 10 million mark, as gas and electricity prices far outstrip inflation and wage increases.

Put that together with the fact that there were an estimated 24,000 excess winter deaths in Britain in 2011/12 – with around a third of them caused through a lack of adequate heating – and we've got a national disaster on our hands.

My belief is that if even one person dies because they can't afford to heat their home, then there's something very broken in this country.

For that reason the Government has to stop criticising the big energy firms and find real solutions to stop the unnecessary deaths.

Getting help to those who really need it – whether financial or energy-efficiency improvements – is therefore essential.

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