Chancellor cuts help for cold homes despite surge in excess winter deaths

George Osborne
Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne

On the same day (25 November) that official figures revealed that last winter’s excess winter deaths were the highest for 15 years, the chancellor announced that he was cutting the Energy Company Obligation (ECO).

George Osborne announced, in the spending review, that ECO will run for five years from April 2017 with an annual budget of £640m. This represents a 42 per cent reduction in expenditure. The average ECO spend over the 2.5 years to the end of June 2015 was £1.1bn per annum.

End Fuel Poverty Coalition (EFPC) chair Jenny Holland said:

“The chancellor failed to heed calls from 200 organisations to commit infrastructure funds to a major energy efficiency programme targeted on the fuel poor. He also indicated a cut in ECO, the only remaining help in England for householders living in cold homes. Infrastructure funds to make our homes energy efficient would have led to lower bills and a massive saving to the NHS. Instead he is slicing the key policy in England that can bring much-needed help to the fuel poor. National Energy Action (NEA) estimates that this decision could lead to the NHS having to spend in excess of £22bn to treat cold-related illnesses over the next 15 years.

“The chancellor’s decision was short-sighted – and we urge him to think again. We will also be asking the newly formed National Infrastructure Commission to recommend to government the use of the UK public infrastructure budget to invest in a major energy efficiency to make our homes warm and healthy to live in.”