People struggling with energy bills in England are handed only around a tenth as much Government help as their Scottish and Welsh neighbours. That shocking regional divide is unveiled in a new fuel poverty report published today.
The UK Fuel Poverty Monitor from charities National Energy Action and Energy Action Scotland reveals that in Wales and Scotland £31.78 of Government funding is available per domestic electricity consumer to improve domestic energy efficiency. But in England the figure falls to just £3.52.
“These figures are a damning indictment of the Government’s failure to tackle spiralling energy bills and invest in energy efficiency,” said Caroline Flint, Labour’s Shadow Energy and Climate Change Secretary. “The most sustainable way to cut people's energy bills is to invest in insulation and save the energy that escapes through our windows, walls and rooftops. But because of David Cameron’s cuts to the so-called green levies, nearly half a million fewer households will get help.”
Glasgow North West MP John Robertson, who sits on the Energy and Climate Change select committee, said: “There is a clear divide among the regions. My constituents obviously benefit from being part of a wider energy policy in the UK as well as benefiting from community-based projects in Scotland. Energy efficiency measures can help people facing rising energy bills and it is disappointing that the UK Government hasn’t helped those in England as much as in Scotland and Wales.”
The report suggests that people are more likely to be in fuel poverty if they live in Wales, Scotland or Northern Ireland, but they are much more likely to receive support than those who are fuel-poor in England.
Norman Kerr, director, Energy Action Scotland said: “Despite policies and targets derived in Westminster impacting on the whole of the UK, there is currently no joined up approach to tackling fuel poverty across the nations.”
The report also criticises the government for taxing energy users but not using the revenue to help them. It points out that consumers are contributing billions of pounds to the Treasury through carbon taxes, VAT, and VAT applied on top of levies on electricity bills. The revenue could be used to bring all UK housing up to the standard of a new home built today, it suggests.
'The disparity in funding between England and Wales and Scotland clearly shows a much greater commitment to tackling fuel poverty exists outside of England,” said Clare Welton of Fuel Poverty Action. “Westminster may be happy to sit back and let an Ofgem investigation tinker at the edges of our broken energy system while thousands die every winter from cold homes. But it is comforting to see that elected officials elsewhere see that it is vital to fund energy efficiency and thus reduce fuel poverty.”
The report concludes that the UK Government must recognise the impact that energy policy derived in Westminster has on the rest of the UK. It warns that cutting or dramatically modifying existing energy efficiency programmes was the wrong short term solution within the 2013 Autumn Statement. Instead the UK Government should expand resources directed towards energy efficiency, particularly for low income households living in the worst properties and most deprived areas.