Fuel poverty cases could treble over next four years

 

Fuel poverty will soar in the next four years despite Ministerial pledges to eradicate it by 2016, a government-commissioned report published today has warned.

Professor John Hills predicts the scale of the problem will be nearly three times higher in 2016 than in 2003.

The London School of Economics academic was commissioned by the government to produce an independent review of fuel poverty, but his conclusions won't please Ministers.

He said we need to rethink the way we measure fuel poverty. Currently it is based on whether a household needs to spend more than 10 per cent of its income on energy.

But Professor Hills says that is flawed and misleading as it excludes some affected by the problem at some times and includes people with high incomes at others.

He said: “There is no doubt that fuel poverty is a serious national problem - increasing hardship, contributing to winter deaths and other health problems, and blocking policies to combat climate change. But the official measure has fed complacency at times and gloom about the impact of policies at others.”

Instead he proposes measuring a 'fuel poverty gap', which takes account of the fact that lower income households generally pay more for gas and electricity because they are forced to use more expensive metres and can't take advantage of discounts offered by online payment and direct debits.

Professor Hills says that nearly eight million people in England - 2.7 million households - both had low incomes and faced high energy costs in 2009, the most recent year with available data.

With average bills having risen by around 20 per cent since then, the scale of the problem could be much higher.

The households affected face costs to keep warm that add up to £1.1 billion more than middle or higher income people with typical costs, Professor Hills reckons.

He says the fuel poverty gap - already three-quarters higher than in 2003 - will rise by a further half, to £1.7billion by 2016.

It will mean fuel poor households will face costs nearly £600 a year higher on average than better-off households with typical costs.

Professor Hills said improving the energy efficiency of homes of hard-up people can make a substantial difference. But he warned that current government plans to help the fuel will only reduce the problem by a tenth by 2016.

“But this daunting problem is one with solutions,” he said. “Our analysis shows that improving the housing of those at risk is the most cost-effective way of tackling the problem, cutting energy waste, with large long-term benefits to society as a whole.

”We need a renewed and ambitious strategy to do this.“

But Derek Lickorish, chairman of the Government's Fuel Poverty Advisory Group, said the report does not go far enough.

“Despite the undoubtedly rigorous analysis by Professor Hills and his team, slicing and dicing the definition of fuel poverty does nothing to reduce how many people are struggling to keep warm and pay their energy bills,” Mr Lickorish said.

“Even with this fundamental change in measurement, the Government's current proposals for tackling fuel poverty remain totally inadequate to the scale of the task.”

He predicted that the number of fuel poor households helped by Government-backed schemes is likely to more than halve over the next three years, despite fuel poverty levels having almost tripled in five years.

“With so many millions of people struggling to afford their energy bills a radical strategy, with much higher funding, is desperately needed, if the Government is to stand any chance of ending the scandal of fuel poverty.

“The Government must grasp the nettle and use carbon tax revenues to increase the help available for the households hit hardest by rising energy bills,” Mr Lickorish said. “The most vulnerable older people, families and disabled people, living in cold homes with high energy bills, need firm action from the Government, not more procrastination.”

The Fuel Poverty Advisory Group argues that the Government's Affordable Warmth proposals - intended to supplement the Green Deal scheme - are not an adequate replacement for the existing Warm Front and will not meet the 2016 target to eradicate fuel poverty, no matter how the problem of fuel poverty is measured.

“There is significant scope to fund a major energy efficiency programme to tackle fuel poverty,” said Mr Lickorish. “This should be on a street-by-street basis in deprived areas to ensure that help is provided to those who are typically hard to reach, with a clear priority to tackle the worst housing stock - usually occupied by those on lowest incomes.”

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: 1st Line Technical Support Engineer

£19000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This IT and Telecoms company ar...

Recruitment Genius: Assistant Manager - Visitor Fundraising

£23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The Visitor Fundraising Team is responsi...

Recruitment Genius: Developer

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...

Recruitment Genius: Trainee Sales Account Manager - OTE £25,000

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you outgoing, ambitious, en...

Day In a Page

War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border
Doris Lessing: Acclaimed novelist was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show

'A subversive brothel keeper and Communist'

Acclaimed novelist Doris Lessing was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show
Big Blue Live: BBC's Springwatch offshoot swaps back gardens for California's Monterey Bay

BBC heads to the Californian coast

The Big Blue Live crew is preparing for the first of three episodes on Sunday night, filming from boats, planes and an aquarium studio
Austin Bidwell: The Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England with the most daring forgery the world had known

Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England

Conman Austin Bidwell. was a heartless cad who carried out the most daring forgery the world had known
Car hacking scandal: Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked

Car hacking scandal

Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked
10 best placemats

Take your seat: 10 best placemats

Protect your table and dine in style with a bold new accessory
Ashes 2015: Alastair Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

Aussie skipper Michael Clarke was lured into believing that what we witnessed at Edgbaston and Trent Bridge would continue in London, says Kevin Garside
Can Rafael Benitez get the best out of Gareth Bale at Real Madrid?

Can Benitez get the best out of Bale?

Back at the club he watched as a boy, the pressure is on Benitez to find a winning blend from Real's multiple talents. As La Liga begins, Pete Jenson asks if it will be enough to stop Barcelona
Athletics World Championships 2015: Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jessica Ennis-Hill and Katarina Johnson-Thompson heptathlon rivalry

Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jess and Kat rivalry

The last time the two British heptathletes competed, Ennis-Hill was on the way to Olympic gold and Johnson-Thompson was just a promising teenager. But a lot has happened in the following three years
Jeremy Corbyn: Joining a shrewd operator desperate for power as he visits the North East

Jeremy Corbyn interview: A shrewd operator desperate for power

His radical anti-austerity agenda has caught the imagination of the left and politically disaffected and set a staid Labour leadership election alight
Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief: Defender of ancient city's past was killed for protecting its future

Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief

Robert Fisk on the defender of the ancient city's past who was killed for protecting its future
Berlusconi's world of sleaze: The astonishing lifestyle once enjoyed by Italy's former PM

Berlusconi's world of sleaze

The astonishing lifestyle once enjoyed by Italy's former PM
Disney plans galactic domination with endless Star Wars spin-offs

Disney plans galactic domination with endless Star Wars spin-offs

Films and theme parks are just the beginning. Disney believes its control of the now decades-old franchise can bring in merchandise and marketing millions for years to come
Could the golden age of the gaming arcade ever be revived in the era of the Xbox?

Could gaming arcades be revived?

The days when coin-ops were the only way to play the latest video games are gone. But a small band of enthusiasts are keeping the button-pushing dream alive
Edinburgh Fringe 2015: The 'tampon tax' has inspired a new wave of female comedians to reclaim period jokes

Heard the one about menstruation?

Yes, if you have been at the Fringe, where period pieces are taking centre stage