Britain tops the fuel poverty league table

The UK is a long way behind other European nations over heating the homes of our most vulnerable people.

Simon Read@simonnread
Friday 29 March 2013 20:00
The elderly are most vulnerable to the health risks of cold homes
The elderly are most vulnerable to the health risks of cold homes

In a shaming indictment of the failure of the Government and energy suppliers to tackle the rising tide of fuel poverty hitting the UK's vulnerable people, Britain this week came bottom of a league table for western Europe.

According to figures from the Association for the Conservation for Energy and the Energy Bill Revolution campaign, British households are hit by the woeful levels of insulation in our homes.

Although most other European countries actually face higher energy prices than those of the UK, better-quality home insulation means our European neighbours pay less to heat their homes.

Some five million UK households, or 19.2 per cent of the total, are now in fuel poverty, according to the report.

A household is considered to be in fuel poverty if more than 10 per cent of its total income is spent on adequate heating.

That total puts the UK squarely at the bottom of the league table, a long way behind table-toppers the Netherlands, which has a reported 8.1 per cent in fuel poverty. Belgium also has less than 10 per cent of households in fuel poverty while Sweden and Austria both have less than 12 per cent.

The closest rival to the UK's woeful record is France, with 16.2 per cent of households in fuel poverty.

But campaigners said making homes highly insulated could cut the average annual heating bill by over £400, and end fuel poverty once and for all.

Ed Matthew, director of the Energy Bill Revolution, said: "Insulating our housing stock to Scandinavian standards can help end the blight of fuel poverty once and for all. And we can afford to do so."

Mr Matthew called on the Government to use carbon tax, which is paid by big companies for their carbon emissions, to fund a nationwide programme to make homes super energy-efficient to eliminate the scourge of fuel poverty.

"The Treasury collects enough carbon tax to super-insulate over half a million homes a year," he said. "Eventually every UK home could benefit, slashing energy bills and weaning the UK off its addiction to gas."

Michelle Mitchell, charity director at Age UK, also supported the campaign. "Living in a cold, poorly insulated home is not only miserable but has very serious health risks for older people – those living in cold homes are three times more likely to die prematurely from a heart-attack or stroke as those living in warmer ones," she warned.

"This report clearly shows that Britain is trailing behind our European counterparts when it comes to providing decent housing which people can afford to heat and it is the oldest and most vulnerable who suffer most. We must invest new carbon taxes in a programme of energy efficiency to bring Britain's housing stock into the 21st century and enable people to benefit from the heat they use."

The Government has cut fuel-poverty funding for families by 27 per cent since coming to power. The only dedicated Exchequer-funded scheme to help make fuel-poor homes energy efficient, the Warm Front programme, was axed earlier this year.

It was replaced by the Green Deal which the Government claims will knock £166 off the average energy bill by 2020. But Labour this week disputed the figures, saying the saving will only be made if people splash out thousands on new appliances.

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