Poll reveals more than 7m households are in fuel poverty

Failure of companies to pass on wholesale price falls hits Britain's poor this winter

More than seven million households struggle to pay their fuel bills, almost double the official estimate, according to new research published today.

In an opinion poll for the National Housing Federation, two-thirds of people in "fuel poverty" said they heated their homes less than would like because they could not afford the high prices of gas and electricity. The research adds to pressure on ministers to take action against energy suppliers to bring down bills and increase social support for vulnerable households to ensure they can stay healthy in the cold.

Fuel bills average £1,239 a year, having fallen by only 4 per cent in 2009 despite the costs of wholesale gas and electricity more than halving.

According to the Government's official fuel poverty statistics released in October, 4 million homes in the UK in 2007 were in fuel poverty, spending at least 10 per cent of their income on heat and power. But in the latest research, a YouGov poll of 2,050 adults, 29 per cent of those surveyed said they spent more than a 10th of their income on fuel, equating to 7.25 million households.

Sixty-one per cent of people claimed to be "worried" or "very worried" about how they would pay their energy bills.

An overwhelming majority, 72 per cent, also said energy suppliers should stop charging prepayment meter customers for the installation and maintenance of meters, which can cost families an extra £108 a year. As part of this newspaper's campaign against the Great Energy Rip-off, The Independent is calling for a 10 per cent reduction in bills and for powers for the regulator Ofgem to act against suppliers which fail to pass on falls in wholesale costs.

In a separate analysis published today, the Conservative Party claims that 2.4m pensioner households – one in three – are in fuel poverty following the sharp rise in energy prices. Although official figures will not be released for two years, the Tories have calculated the impact on pensioners of energy price rises. The party says that the number of pensioner households spending at least 10 per cent of their income on fuel has risen fourfold since 2004, when it was 604,000 – one in 12.

The Tories say Labour will miss its target to abolish fuel poverty in vulnerable households, including those with a pensioner, by 2010. Greg Clark, the shadow Energy and Climate Change Secretary, said: "Ministers' warm words will have a hollow ring this Christmas as many pensioners are forced to choose between heating and eating."

In the National Housing Federation's poll, 5 per cent thought Ofgem was doing a good job of protecting vulnerable customers, with 46 per cent saying it had performed poorly.

David Orr, chief executive of the National Housing Federation, an umbrella group for housing charities, said: "The findings of our poll are truly shocking. As the recession continues to bite, up to 7 million households are in fuel poverty. Huge numbers of vulnerable people will go cold this winter because they can't afford to heat their homes. The spiralling cost of energy and the impact of the downturn mean heating our homes has become a luxury rather than a basic necessity – particularly for the elderly, low paid and unemployed."

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: Project Assistant

£17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They are a leading company in the field ...

Recruitment Genius: DBA Developer - SQL Server

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

Recruitment Genius: Office Manager

£26041 - £34876 per annum: Recruitment Genius: There has never been a more exc...

Recruitment Genius: Travel Customer Service and Experience Manager

£14000 - £17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The fastest growing travel comp...

Day In a Page

Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza

Andrew Grice: Inside Westminster

Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza
HMS Victory: The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

Exclusive: David Keys reveals the research that finally explains why HMS Victory went down with the loss of 1,100 lives
Survivors of the Nagasaki atomic bomb attack: Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism

'I saw people so injured you couldn't tell if they were dead or alive'

Nagasaki survivors on why Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism
Jon Stewart: The voice of Democrats who felt Obama had failed to deliver on his 'Yes We Can' slogan, and the voter he tried hardest to keep onside

The voter Obama tried hardest to keep onside

Outgoing The Daily Show host, Jon Stewart, became the voice of Democrats who felt the President had failed to deliver on his ‘Yes We Can’ slogan. Tim Walker charts the ups and downs of their 10-year relationship on screen
RuPaul interview: The drag star on being inspired by Bowie, never fitting in, and saying the first thing that comes into your head

RuPaul interview

The drag star on being inspired by Bowie, never fitting in, and saying the first thing that comes into your head
Secrets of comedy couples: What's it like when both you and your partner are stand-ups?

Secrets of comedy couples

What's it like when both you and your partner are stand-ups?
Satya Nadella: As Windows 10 is launched can he return Microsoft to its former glory?

Satya Nadella: The man to clean up for Windows?

While Microsoft's founders spend their billions, the once-invincible tech company's new boss is trying to save it
The best swimwear for men: From trunks to shorts, make a splash this summer

The best swimwear for men

From trunks to shorts, make a splash this summer
Mark Hix recipes: Our chef tries his hand at a spot of summer foraging

Mark Hix goes summer foraging

 A dinner party doesn't have to mean a trip to the supermarket
Ashes 2015: With an audacious flourish, home hero Ian Bell ends all debate

With an audacious flourish, the home hero ends all debate

Ian Bell advances to Trent Bridge next week almost as undroppable as Alastair Cook and Joe Root, a cornerstone of England's new thinking, says Kevin Garside
Aaron Ramsey interview: Wales midfielder determined to be centre of attention for Arsenal this season

Aaron Ramsey interview

Wales midfielder determined to be centre of attention for Arsenal this season
Community Shield: Arsene Wenger needs to strike first blow in rivalry with Jose Mourinho

Community Shield gives Wenger chance to strike first blow in rivalry with Mourinho

As long as the Arsenal manager's run of games without a win over his Chelsea counterpart continues it will continue to dominate the narrative around the two men
The unlikely rise of AFC Bournemouth - and what it says about English life

Unlikely rise of AFC Bournemouth

Bournemouth’s elevation to football’s top tier is one of the most improbable of recent times. But it’s illustrative of deeper and wider changes in English life
A Very British Coup, part two: New novel in pipeline as Jeremy Corbyn's rise inspires sequel

A Very British Coup, part two

New novel in pipeline as Jeremy Corbyn's rise inspires sequel
Philae lander data show comets could have brought 'building blocks of life' to Earth

Philae lander data show comets could have brought 'building blocks of life' to Earth

Icy dust layer holds organic compounds similar to those found in living organisms