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Energy bills crisis demands Emergency Budget

Campaigners have urged the Government to deliver an emergency budget to address the cost of living crisis facing the country.

The End Fuel Poverty Coalition has made the call as Ofgem projections firmed up the nightmare scenario of further energy bill rises this winter. [1]

With the number of homes in fuel poverty expected to surge to 43% by this winter, campaigners have warned only an emergency budget will solve the crisis gripping the country. [2]

A household that was paying GBP1,000 for their energy bills in October 2020 could soon be paying almost three-times that. And with inflationary pressures also affecting food prices, the outlook is bleak.

If fuel poverty levels hit the limits predicted, the End Fuel Poverty Coalition estimates that thousands of additional winter deaths will take place due to cold homes in 2022/23 – mainly among the elderly and vulnerable. [3]

To avoid the predicted disaster, the End Fuel Poverty Coalition, has called on the Chancellor to deliver an emergency budget consisting of:

  • A 50% Windfall Tax on all Energy Production Firms Profits yielding revenue well in excess of GBP20bn, this may have to be levied every year until the Price Cap returns to a more affordable rate or the market is reformed. [4]
  • An annual Anti-Fuel Poverty Payment (AFPP) of GBP1,800 to the lowest income households, including those newly facing fuel poverty this winter. [5]
  • A one off £20,000 investment in each of the fuel poor households in the UK that are dependent on oil, LPG or coal for heating to improve their homes so they are well insulated and using a cheaper, less-polluting fuel – heat pump or new night storage heaters.
  • In future years, any excess revenue generated by the Windfall Tax could raise additional funding for the Emergency Hardship Funds available to local authorities and charitable organisations working with vulnerable groups to deploy.

In addition to the Windfall Tax, the Government must urgently fulfil the promises made in its 2019 Conservative party election manifesto that would help lower energy bills by investing £9.2bn in the energy efficiency of homes, schools and hospitals in England, including £2.5bn for the Home Upgrade Grant Scheme. To date, less than half of the Government’s 2019 manifesto pledges on fuel poverty have been committed. 

The Coalition has also urged BEIS to launch a fundamental review of the UK Energy Market to address concerns which will persist even after the emergency financial measures suggested. This review should consider alternative proposals put forward by campaigners such as the idea of “social tariffs” or a state-funded energy allowance for all.

For example, the average unit of gas has been sold up to 22 times before it gets to customers’ meters, meaning several private firms all making fuel bills that much higher. Consumers have also been required to bail out the costs of 31 companies going bankrupt as a result of Ofgem’s inadequate regulation. [6]

Dr Brenda Boardman, Emeritus Fellow, Environmental Change Institute, University of Oxford, commented:

The injustice of it all is just incredible. We desperately need an energy market that is designed around the needs of the consumers, not the needs of the suppliers. This is, after all, a basic necessity, that is ultimately about life and death, as well as comfort, good health and child development.

A spokesperson for the End Fuel Poverty Coalition added:

Previous measures implemented by the Government to tackle fuel poverty do not scratch the surface and the majority of the help has gone to all households, not necessarily those in fuel poverty specifically. Significant sums have also been spent on the petrol and diesel rebate, which goes to better-off households, who own cars and drive the most.

Only an emergency budget will ensure the measures can be introduced to tackle the cost of living crisis.

Ruth London from Fuel Poverty Action commented:

With over 40% of UK households in or heading for fuel poverty, we need more than pitiful handouts to prevent a widespread health crisis, miserable children, and more deaths. The energy system should be turned on its head to ensure we pay less per unit if we use less energy – not more. Ofgem has loaded the costs of failing suppliers onto the standing charge – the part of the bill we  can’t escape no matter how much we cut down. The injustice of this charge must be urgently reversed, as a first step towards #EnergyForAll. Energy security begins at home.

William Baker from Solutions to Tackle Energy Poverty (STEP) commented:

We are facing a humanitarian crisis this winter unless the Government takes immediate action to ensure low income households can afford their fuel. It must also embark on an ambitious programme to reduce energy demand by insulating our homes; such a programme will reduce fuel poverty, improve energy security, reduce pressure on our health services and give a much needed boost to the economy.  

Tamara Sandoul from Chartered Institute of Environmental Health (CIEH) commented:

Another big rise in the cost of energy will have serious consequences for people’s health and wellbeing. Living in cold homes will hit the most vulnerable hardest – the elderly, those on low incomes, children and those with existing health conditions. The Government needs to act quickly to protect the most vulnerable in our society from the effects of this unprecedented rise in the cost of energy and the cost of living.

Jo Gilbert from CUBES (Customer Utility Bills Expertly Serviced) commented:

When thousands of death’s were predicted due to the Covid-19 pandemic the government stepped in and took measures to safeguard the vulnerable. We are now in a very real ‘Poverty Pandemic’ and thousands of people will freeze and die from cold related illness. The government must take immediate action, as they did with covid-19 to prevent this humanitarian crisis from emerging more than it already has.

Jacky Peacock, Head of Policy at Advice for Renters commented,

The 450,000 private renters who emerged from the pandemic with arrears of rent. now face unaffordable fuel bills.  Without decisive action now, we will see an explosion of evictions and homelessness with a cost to the public purse in excess of the measures to reduce fuel poverty being proposed by the End Fuel Poverty Coalition.

NOTES TO EDITORS

[1] Ofgem has suggested that the price rise will be an additional GBP829, taking the price cap to GBP2800 – an additional increase in bills of 42%.

[2] The rise in bills will result in an additional number of households in fuel poverty. According to Ofgem across the UK 12m households will be in fuel poverty this winter, 43% of the 28.1m households.

[3] Overall the End Fuel Poverty Coalition and National Energy Action estimate that based on a five year average, between 8,000 to 10,000 people across the United Kingdom die prematurely during the winter due to the impact of cold homes.  This is based on World Health Organisation modelling that at least 30% of Excess Winter Deaths are attributable to a cold home.

In 2019 there were 3.1m households in fuel poverty in England (official Government figures) and the average winter deaths mid-point would have been 9,000 (i.e. 0.3% of fuel poor homes are likely to have registered a “excess winter death”). If the numbers of fuel poor increase to the levels predicted, so could the numbers of people who die as a result of cold homes. If the figures of excess winter deaths remained proportionate to the levels of people in fuel poverty, this could see 22,500 excess winter deaths, pro rata. However, this assumption will need to be tested and checked against official figures in winter 2022/23 so is only for illustrative purposes.

[4] GBP20bn would be raised from Shell and BP alone, based solely on their 2020-21 profits. In the last quarter, their profits were even higher.

[5] GBP1800 based on the difference between the Ofgem prediction for winter 2022/23 and GBP1,000 cap which was more manageable for those in fuel poverty. This could be adjusted every year. Alternative measures have been suggested by other campaigners, such as the reversal of Universal Credit cuts or expansion of rebate schemes.

[6] “22 times” churn: https://www.oxfordenergy.org/wpcms/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/European-traded-gas-hubs-an-updated-analysis-on-liquidity-maturity-and-barriers-to-market-integration-OIES-Energy-Insight.pdf (table 4, p11). Experts predict this number may have fallen slightly since the table was compiled, but the principles of the market remain.

“31 suppliers”: https://www.forbes.com/uk/advisor/energy/failed-uk-energy-suppliers-update/

Coalition condemns utterly devastating price rises

A spokesperson for the End Fuel Poverty Coalition, has commented on Ofgem’s estimates that the price cap will increase to £2,800 from 1 October 2022 and predictions that 12m households could be in fuel poverty across the UK this winter.

This news will be utterly devastating for millions of homes currently in fuel poverty – and for millions more households who will now spend this winter struggling to keep themselves warm.

Fuel poverty becomes a public health emergency in winter and the hidden cost of the UK Government’s continued inaction will be felt in a collapse in the mental health of those in fuel poverty, increased pressure on the NHS from those with health conditions affected by damp properties and excess winter deaths caused by cold homes.

Unless the Government acts now, it will have blood on its hands this winter.

The Government must urgently impose a windfall tax on energy production firms to help those most in need, invest in a Great Homes Upgrade to improve energy efficiency of buildings and deliver a renewable-led secure energy infrastructure.

James Taylor, Executive Director of Strategy at disability equality charity Scope which are members of the Coalition, said:

The impact of the price cap rising by £1,500 in a year will be horrific. Many disabled people are already forced to commit a large amount of their income to energy costs.

Disabled people often rely on energy intensive equipment like electric wheelchairs, electric hoists, or monitors.

We’ve heard from disabled people who must choose between charging vital equipment and heating their home. Others are going without food so that their children can eat.

Our Disability Energy Support service has been inundated by disabled people in crisis with nowhere else to turn.

Disabled people cannot wait any longer for Government intervention. We need to see benefits rise in line with inflation, disabled people included in any expansion of the Warm Home Discount and a further increase in funding to the Household Support Fund.

In comments on Twitter, National Energy Action also described the proposed increases as catastrophic.

Government urged to take action to help councils tackle fuel poverty

Ahead of local elections in May 2022, the Government has been urged to implement an action plan to help local authorities take action on fuel poverty.

The action plan, developed by the End Fuel Poverty Coalition, includes legislation to prevent energy firms from charging more than the lowest tariff for those on pre-payment meters and the introduction of a Windfall Tax on fossil fuel firms’ profits.

In addition to the central Government action plan, candidates standing for election to local authorities across England have also been urged to take action to end fuel poverty.

In a pledge, co-ordinated by the End Fuel Poverty Coalition, councillors and council candidates can pledge their support for ending fuel poverty. The pledge commits candidates to campaign for a range of measures – all of which can be implemented by local authorities – that will help end fuel poverty.

Council candidates can sign up to the pledge online: https://www.endfuelpoverty.org.uk/end-fuel-poverty-councillor-pledge/ 

Roni Marsh, Money Advice Team Leader, South West London Law Centres, commented:

The government’s annual fuel poverty figures show that the measures taken to address fuel poverty had made only minimal impact by 2020, and of course we know that the situation has become much much worse since then. We not only have clients choosing between heating their homes or eating, they also have to think twice about using energy to heat their food. Urgent action is needed to help those households in fuel poverty.

 William Baker, from Solutions to Tackle Energy Poverty (STEP), added:

The single largest rise in fuel bills for over 30 years will lead many people in fuel poverty to turn to their local councils for help.

Councils should do everything in their powers to cushion the shock, whether that is installing improved heating and insulation, providing financial support or enforcing private rental regulations.

However, the government must provide councils with the resources to meet the envisaged rise in demand for council services, as well as take action to correct its own woefully inadequate response to the fuel price crisis.

Chaitanya Kumar, Head of Environment at The New Economics Foundation, said: 

People’s bills are going through the roof, and the scourge of fuel poverty is hitting more and more households who just want to keep warm.

It’s vital that the government gives local authorities the resources they need to upgrade homes and immediately protect those on the sharp end of the cost of living crisis.

 

Emma Lewins, from Students Organising for Sustainability UK, added: 

Students were already at a high risk of falling into fuel poverty due to limited knowledge and experience of how to navigate the energy system, poor quality student housing and lower incomes.

With the cost-of-living scandal, this is only getting worse.

Due to the student population’s transient nature, it is unlikely that the existing support will serve students. We need the Government to step up and take urgent action to respond to the fuel price crisis.

The Westminster Government Council Support Action Plan

To support Councils in helping people in fuel poverty, the Westminster Government must:

  • Provide a stable and sustainable approach to funding for home upgrades and move away from short-term funding cycles.
  • Legislate to prevent energy firms from charging more than the lowest tariff for those on pre-payment meters.
  • Enable tenants to use Rent Repayment Orders to reclaim money from landlords in compensation for living in the worst properties for fuel poverty.
  • Launch a public information campaign on landlords’ obligations and tenants’ rights on energy efficiency.
  • Support Local Authorities to carry out urgent stock assessments across public and private housing and put in place strategies for improving all housing to a minimum EPC C standard within their areas by 2030 for rented housing and 2035 for owner occupier housing.
  • Introduce a Windfall Tax on profits of fossil fuel firms to ensure enough money is raised to help those most in need.

The End Fuel Poverty Councillor Pledge

As a councillor, I pledge to do all I can to end the scourge of fuel poverty. I will campaign for:

  • Improving energy efficiency of Council / housing association housing stock
  • Better enforcement of existing regulations on energy efficiency and property standards in the private rented sector
  • Improving private tenants’ rights
  • Providing information advice and guidance on energy efficiency and benefits to those most at risk of fuel poverty
  • The use of central government energy scheme grants to help those most at risk
  • Bring forward the End Fuel Poverty motion to a Council meeting in 2022
  • Urge the Westminster Government to implement the End Fuel Poverty Coalition’s Local Authority Fuel Poverty Action Plan.

Council candidates can sign up to the pledge online: https://www.endfuelpoverty.org.uk/end-fuel-poverty-councillor-pledge/ 

Fuel poverty in Chancellor’s own constituency hits new high

An exclusive report in Richmondshire Today, Chancellor Rishi Sunak’s local paper, has set out how fuel poverty in the rural constituency is higher than in parts of London.

Data projections from the End Fuel Poverty Coalition found that over 6.3m households (27% of homes in England) woke up in fuel poverty on 1 April 2022, but some areas of the country suffered more than others.

On the Chancellor’s home turf, 14,000 households in his constituency of Richmond (Yorks) will be in fuel poverty (29.7%).

The numbers in wider Richmondshire are also among the worst in rural England (32.3%). By comparison, around a third of households in market town Kings Lynn and rural West Norfolk will be in fuel poverty (33.8%), as will similar numbers in North East Lincolnshire (33.2%), Herefordshire (32.9%) and Shropshire (32.8%).

Indeed, Richmondshire has similar levels of fuel poverty as Middlesborough and higher levels than places such as Salford and parts of London, such as Wandsworth.

Reports in the Daily Telegraph suggest that the barrier to implementing measures to tackle fuel poverty is the Richmond (Yorks) MP, Chancellor Rishi Sunak.

A spokesperson from from the End Fuel Poverty Coalition, commented:

The Government has talked about this for long enough, but fails to match words with action. That even the suffering on the Chancellor’s own door step is failing to make him act sends a very worrying message to the constituents who are facing stark choices in the months ahead.

We need to see urgent help for households in fuel poverty now combined with a long-term plan to improve energy efficiency of our homes and investment in a sustainable, renewable-led, energy mix.

Meanwhile, the Government’s energy security strategy has been widely criticised by End Fuel Poverty Coalition members for not doing enough to support increased energy efficiency measures in the nation’s homes.

Juliet Phillips, from E3G, commented:

The Energy Security Strategy has failed to deliver for British families facing a cost-of-living crisis and done little to support a rapid shift from Russian energy imports.

With estimates that one in three households could be left in fuel poverty this autumn, the focus should have been on rapid measures to boost energy security at home.

However, the Prime Minister has let the Chancellor block any solutions which could have delivered tangible results this year.

By instead emphasising on technologies which won’t deliver until far into the future, the government has both failed to meet the moment, and failed to read the mood of the nation.

UNISON national energy officer Matthew Lay said:

To call this a strategy is a complete misnomer.

It does nothing to ease the pain people are feeling now, nor to bring Britain closer to meeting its net zero targets. It’s a smokescreen covering the mistakes of the past that have left us so dangerously reliant on fossil fuels.

Lack of detail on how any changes will be funded is worryingly familiar. Already-squeezed consumers will likely have to fork out to make up for years of energy mismanagement.

It’s totally unforgivable to have no plan for insulating Britain’s leaky housing stock, which would cut bills now and ease some of the pain being felt by millions.

Image: Shutterstock

Major home insulation programme would drastically slash bills

The energy bills of almost eight million households could be slashed by as much as 40% if the government prioritises retrofitting the country’s draughty, heat-leaking homes, according to new predictions.

End Fuel Poverty Coalition members, Friends of the Earth, predict cavity wall insulation can reduce energy consumption by up to 20%, as can loft insulation.

For an average dual fuel household, the savings that could be made are around £750 a year.

New analysis by the environmental campaign group has identified the areas of the country that would most benefit from a massive programme of free loft and cavity wall insulation, broken down by both local authority area and parliamentary constituency.

Friends of the Earth is calling on the government to implement this policy as part of its upcoming energy review.

The top five local authority areas where most homes could see vast improvements in energy efficiency through the rollout of loft insulation are Birmingham, Leeds, Cornwall, Bradford, and Buckinghamshire.

Similarly, Birmingham, Leeds, Bradford and Buckinghamshire are among the top five areas where homes would most benefit from cavity wall insulation, as well as Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole.

The average household will see energy costs rise by £693 this year, which is expected to climb higher still when the energy regulator re-evaluates the price cap again later this year.

Estimates suggest that one in four households will be plunged into fuel poverty from today as the initial price hike comes into effect. In some parts of the country, this will rise to more than 40% of households.

However, there are 5.7 million homes across the country where loft insulation could help households make significant cost savings, and a further 5.2 million where cavity wall insulation would have a similar effect.

The group has found that the majority (approximately 60%) of homes which could see lower bills through a government energy efficiency programme are in areas where household incomes are below the national average.

Areas with the highest levels of poverty are also twice as likely to have homes requiring better insulation than areas with the highest concentration of wealth, say campaigners.

Mike Childs, head of science, policy and research at Friends of the Earth, said:

We know that our bills would already be significantly lower had the government not scrapped plans to make UK homes more energy efficient back in 2013. While the government can’t turn back time, it can choose to boost energy efficiency to reduce energy bills now and end the UK’s dependency on imported gas.

A free loft and cavity wall insulation programme, targeted at areas with high levels of fuel poverty, can be rolled out quickly by councils and will make a huge difference for millions of people ahead of next winter. The bonus is that this will also cut carbon emissions.

This programme can and should be funded by a Windfall Tax on profiteering fossil fuel companies. The government must commit to this as part of its upcoming Energy Security Strategy.

Sana Yusuf, climate campaigner at Friends of the Earth, said:

Sky-rocketing energy costs resulting from today’s price rise have many households wondering how they’ll afford to make ends meet, but without much-needed government intervention the number of people facing extreme financial hardship is shockingly high.

Priority number one has to be protecting our communities from this and future price shocks. It’s crystal clear that our system is broken, and it’s because of the UK’s reliance on highly volatile gas that energy prices have spiralled well out of control.

Extracting more fossil fuels simply isn’t the answer, not even in the short-term, because new developments take decades to become operational, will do nothing to help people struggling now, and will fuel climate breakdown which is already harming millions across the globe.

Clearly, the quickest, cleanest, long-term solutions are already before us. Boosting energy efficiency is a crucial place to start, alongside an ambitious plan to scale up the country’s renewable energy capacity.

Constituencies with highest levels of fuel poverty revealed

The constituencies with the highest levels of fuel poverty have been revealed in a new league table from the End Fuel Poverty Coalition published today.

Over 6.3m homes will be in fuel poverty from tomorrow morning (1 April 2022), following the Chancellor’s Spring Statement, which did little to help end the misery of fuel poverty.

The Coalition has launched a campaign to help people in fuel poverty easily contact their MP on Twitter. Simply tweet your MP today using this easy link: https://tymp.uk/3DckC0m. A petition by National Energy Action has also been launched.

The 10% of constituencies most affected by fuel poverty are mainly urban areas represented by Labour MPs.

But in Stoke-on-Trent Central, Wolverhampton North East, Walsall North, Stoke-on-Trent North, West Bromwich East, West Bromwich West, Stoke-on-Trent South, Birmingham Northfied, Newcastle-under-Lyme, Dudley North and Great Grimbsy, Tory MPs represent over 178,000 households which will be in fuel poverty.

An End Fuel Poverty spokesperson commented:

Constituents will rightly be asking what MPs are doing to help end fuel poverty and the energy bills crisis gripping the country.

End Fuel Poverty Coalition members have called for urgent help for households in fuel poverty now combined with a long-term plan to improve energy efficiency of our homes and investment in a sustainable, renewable-led, energy mix.

Sadly, none of these things were delivered in the recent Spring Statement and the Chancellor has once again ignored those in fuel poverty – including the 14,000 homes in his own constituency.

MPs must demand Rishi Sunak comes back to Parliament at the earliest opportunity and sets out how the Government will help those who will continue to suffer.

Meanwhile, the Energy Saving Trust has provided advice on how households can reduce energy bills.

The organisation suggests that making several small and swift changes, such as turning devices off standby and reducing daily water usage, could enable many people to offset the increase in costs by around a third.

While more support for those in fuel poverty will be needed, for those that are able – or able to access financial support to future-proof their homes – investing in energy efficiency can yield results.

Professional draught-proofing and insulation in preparation for the winter months could lead to a reduction in bills by £405 a year for a semi-detached home. Installing solar panels for a similar property could lead to additional annual savings of around £450 a year.

The full league table of constituencies by fuel poverty is below:

Fuel Poverty by Parliamentary Constituency, 2019 (Official BEIS figures) Fuel Poverty by Parliamentary Constituency, from 1 April 2022 (End Fuel Poverty Coalition estimates)
Parliamentary Constituency Number of households in fuel poverty (2019) Proportion of households fuel poor (%, 2019) Number of households in fuel poverty (from 1 April 2022) Proportion of households fuel poor (% from 1 April 2022) MP Name MP Surname MP Party
Birmingham Hodge Hill                  11,575                      27.4            23,041 54.5% Liam Byrne Labour
Barking                  11,580                      24.0            23,051 47.7% Margaret Hodge Labour
Stoke-on-Trent Central                    9,275                      23.7            18,463 47.3% Jo Gideon Conservative
Wolverhampton South East                    8,956                      23.7            17,828 47.1% Pat McFadden Labour
Walthamstow                  10,479                      23.7            20,859 47.1% Stella Creasy Labour/Co-operative
Birmingham Yardley                  10,405                      23.5            20,712 46.7% Jess Phillips Labour
Sheffield Brightside and Hillsborough                  10,778                      23.2            21,454 46.2% Gill Furniss Labour
Warley                    8,775                      23.2            17,467 46.2% John Spellar Labour
Birmingham Ladywood                  11,770                      23.1            23,429 46.0% Shabana Mahmood Labour
Manchester Gorton                    9,680                      22.8            19,269 45.5% Afzal Khan Labour
Birmingham Erdington                  10,006                      22.8            19,918 45.5% Paulette Hamilton Labour
Birmingham Perry Barr                    9,248                      22.8            18,409 45.3% Khalid Mahmood Labour
Birmingham Hall Green                    9,550                      22.7            19,010 45.2% Tahir Ali Labour
Bradford West                    8,829                      22.4            17,575 44.6% Naseem Shah Labour
East Ham                  10,819                      22.0            21,536 43.7% Stephen Timms Labour
Bradford East                    9,406                      21.9            18,723 43.7% Imran Hussain Labour
Tottenham                  11,347                      21.8            22,587 43.4% David Lammy Labour
Wolverhampton North East                    8,531                      21.8            16,982 43.4% Jane Stevenson Conservative
Walsall South                    8,688                      21.8            17,294 43.3% Valerie Vaz Labour
Walsall North                    8,852                      21.7            17,621 43.2% Eddie Hughes Conservative
Leeds East                    9,064                      21.6            18,043 43.0% Richard Burgon Labour
West Ham                  12,750                      21.5            25,380 42.8% Lyn Brown Labour
Kingston upon Hull North                    8,932                      21.3            17,780 42.4% Diana R. Johnson Labour
Stoke-on-Trent North                    9,346                      21.1            18,604 41.9% Jonathan Gullis Conservative
Birmingham Selly Oak                    9,210                      20.9            18,333 41.6% Steve McCabe Labour
Leeds Central                  12,738                      20.9            25,356 41.6% Hilary Benn Labour
Edmonton                    9,171                      20.7            18,255 41.3% Kate Osamor Labour/Co-operative
Sheffield Central                    9,838                      20.5            19,583 40.8% Paul Blomfield Labour
Coventry North East                    9,653                      20.4            19,215 40.7% Colleen Fletcher Labour
Croydon North                  11,643                      20.4            23,176 40.7% Steve Reed Labour/Co-operative
West Bromwich East                    7,569                      20.3            15,067 40.5% Nicola Richards Conservative
Leyton and Wanstead                    8,465                      20.3            16,850 40.3% John Cryer Labour
Nottingham East                    9,094                      20.1            18,102 40.1% Nadia Whittome Labour
Rotherham                    7,976                      20.0            15,877 39.9% Sarah Champion Labour
West Bromwich West                    7,623                      20.0            15,174 39.8% Shaun Bailey Conservative
Nottingham North                    8,892                      19.9            17,700 39.6% Alex Norris Labour/Co-operative
Stoke-on-Trent South                    8,090                      19.7            16,104 39.3% Jack Brereton Conservative
Barnsley East                    8,158                      19.7            16,239 39.1% Stephanie Peacock Labour
Manchester Withington                    8,458                      19.6            16,836 39.1% Jeff Smith Labour
Doncaster North                    8,647                      19.6            17,212 39.1% Ed Miliband Labour
Leicester West                    8,667                      19.5            17,252 38.8% Liz Kendall Labour
Liverpool Walton                    8,403                      19.4            16,727 38.6% Dan Carden Labour
Brent Central                  10,324                      19.4            20,551 38.5% Dawn Butler Labour
Blackley and Broughton                    9,219                      19.2            18,351 38.3% Graham Stringer Labour
Birmingham Northfield                    8,805                      19.1            17,527 38.0% Gary Sambrook Conservative
Lewisham East                    8,633                      19.0            17,185 37.9% Janet Daby Labour
Liverpool Wavertree                    8,035                      19.0            15,994 37.7% Paula Barker Labour
Bradford South                    8,227                      19.0            16,376 37.7% Judith Cummins Labour
Middlesbrough                    7,664                      18.9            15,256 37.6% Andy McDonald Labour
Newcastle-under-Lyme                    7,619                      18.9            15,166 37.5% Aaron Bell Conservative
Leeds West                    8,266                      18.8            16,454 37.5% Rachel Reeves Labour
Birmingham Edgbaston                    7,995                      18.8            15,915 37.4% Preet Kaur Gill Labour/Co-operative
Dudley North                    6,661                      18.8            13,259 37.4% Marco Longhi Conservative
Leicester South                    8,792                      18.8            17,501 37.4% Jon Ashworth Labour
Leicester East                    7,659                      18.6            15,246 37.1% Claudia Webbe Independent
Liverpool Riverside                  10,201                      18.5            20,306 36.9% Kim Johnson Labour
Kingston upon Hull East                    7,898                      18.5            15,722 36.9% Karl Turner Labour
Huddersfield                    7,954                      18.5            15,833 36.8% Barry Sheerman Labour/Co-operative
Newcastle upon Tyne East                    7,693                      18.5            15,313 36.7% Nick Brown Labour
Coventry South                    8,221                      18.4            16,364 36.7% Zarah Sultana Labour
Barnsley Central                    7,384                      18.3            14,698 36.5% Dan Jarvis Labour
Great Grimsby                    7,523                      18.3            14,975 36.4% Lia Nici Conservative
Mitcham and Morden                    7,580                      18.2            15,089 36.2% Siobhain McDonagh Labour

Methodology.

Image: Shutterstock

Is that it? – Reaction to Chancellor’s Spring Statement

End Fuel Poverty Coalition members have reacted with growing anger to the Chancellor’s Spring Statement.

A spokesperson for the Coalition commented:

As one MP in the chamber shouted, “is that it?”

The unexpected VAT cut on installing renewable or energy efficiency measures, the increase to Household Support Funds and the promised tax cuts, will no doubt help some people.

However, the fuel poverty crisis gripping this country will affect over 6.3m households from 1 April.

And for these people – including the 2.5m families with children in fuel poverty – there was very little in the Spring Statement.

End Fuel Poverty Coalition members have called for urgent help for households in fuel poverty now combined with a long-term plan to improve energy efficiency of our homes and investment in a sustainable, renewable-led, energy mix.

None of these things were delivered.

Sadly, the Chancellor has once again ignored those in fuel poverty – including the 14,000 homes in his own constituency. He must come back to Parliament at the earliest opportunity and set out how the Government will help those who will continue to suffer.

Commenting on today’s Spring Statement, Dan Paskins, Director of UK Impact at Save the Children, said:

 The chancellor is burying his head in the sand. In today’s statement he’s refused to face up to the reality of rising prices or to step in and shield the children hardest hit.

For families on low incomes this crisis has become unbearable. Parents we work with tell us that there’s nothing left to cut back. They’re being forced to skip meals, turn off the heating, and take on unsustainable amounts of debt. Children are going to school hungry because food budgets are stretched so thin.

The measures the chancellor has announced will benefit those on middle and higher incomes most and won’t come to close to closing the gap rising prices have left in family budgets. 

A 5p cut to fuel duty coupled with an increase to the national insurance threshold translates into an additional £18.40 per month for the poorest families, in the context of a real-terms income cut of £55 a month.

And while we welcome the continuation of the Household Support Fund, it’s designed for one-off unexpected costs, so this measure is grossly insufficient when families are facing soaring costs every day.

The government must do more. The best way to support the families who are struggling most is to increase social security payments to match the rate at which prices are increasing.

Dr Doug Parr, policy director at Greenpeace UK, said:

Right now millions of people are paying through the nose to heat homes which are so poorly insulated the warmth shoots right outside.

Cutting VAT on insulation, solar panels and heat pumps is a welcome start to ending that huge waste of energy, helping keep bills down and cut our gas use.

But if the chancellor’s serious about tackling the issue then it can only be the start. We need to see around £10bn of support, part raised by a windfall tax on oil and gas companies, for delivering the help families need to install the clean technologies that will get us off gas.

That should include finally fulfilling the full Conservatives manifesto pledge of £9.2bn towards energy efficiency, with more support grants available and greater backing to help the industry train up and deploy the tens of thousands of jobs this area offers.

National Energy Action experts tweeted:

Zero VAT on energy efficiency will make public money go further on schemes

More money for LAs to support households is good, but provision is inconsistent. Would have been better to increase existing energy schemes

Fuel duty cut will help many, but will help richer people most https://t.co/0TjUW5fSJC

— Matt Copeland (@Matt_Copeland1) March 23, 2022


Meanwhile, the Joseph Rowntree Foundation set out why the National Insurance Changes will not benefit those in fuel poverty:

Rise in NICs thresholds is very expensive for a small gain for low income working families and nothing for those with no-one in work.
The Chancellor has chosen to prioritise a tax break for middle and high income households over preventing a real terms cut to benefits

— Dave Innes (@dminnes) March 23, 2022

And the New Economics Foundation explained how the petrol price cut will not help low income households:

A 5p cut to fuel duty is worth less than £2/month for the poorest 10% of households #SpringStatement

— Alfie Stirling (@alfie_stirling) March 23, 2022


More reaction will follow.

Image: Shutterstock

Children set to suffer as energy bills rocket

Sky News has exclusively revealed  new End Fuel Poverty Coalition calculations that show the impact of the energy bills crisis on households with children.

Figures predict that recent rises in energy bills will take the number of households with children in fuel poverty to over 2.5m from 1 April 2022.

The figure exceeds previous calculations and represents the number of children in fuel poverty doubling since 2019.

As a percentage of all households with children, this will rise from 19.4% in fuel poverty in 2019 to an estimated 38.6% after the next Ofgem Price Cap increase which comes in on 1 April 2022.

The End Fuel Poverty Coalition predicts that over half (55.7%) of lone-parent households (855,938) will be in fuel poverty from 1 April 2022. The figure is 33.4% for couples with dependent children (1.69m).

A spokesperson for the End Fuel Poverty Coalition told Sky News, which first reported on the figures:

The stark reality of life under the Government’s energy bill crisis is clear to see. Among the worst affected will be the most vulnerable, including children.

Expert studies show that living in fuel poverty can have a detrimental impact on children’s health, well-being and even their ability to learn.

The measures already announced by the Government hardly scratch the surface of the support needed.

We need to see a full package of measures to help those in fuel poverty now alongside urgent work to improve the energy efficiency of buildings and move the country to a secure, sustainable, non-fossil fuel based energy supply.

Public Health England report found that cold homes and poor housing conditions have been linked with a range of health problems in children. And a Childhood Trust report found that fuel poverty can also have a number of indirect impacts, such as lower rates of educational attainment in school, and a strain upon young people’s mental health.

Recently, the British Medical Journal reported:

Children growing up in cold, damp, and mouldy homes with inadequate ventilation have higher than average rates of respiratory infections and asthma, chronic ill health, and disability. They are also more likely to experience depression, anxiety, and slower physical growth and cognitive development.

Dan Paskins, Director of UK Impact at Save the Children, commented:

It is deeply worrying that the number of families in fuel poverty is set to double this spring. These figures show that this year, a child in a single parent family is more likely to experience fuel poverty than not. That simply can’t be right and the UK government must do more to protect families.

We’re already seeing families having to make impossible choices between heating their homes and feeding their children, and parents we work with say they just don’t know what they’re going to cut back on next. A further increase in energy bills will leave even more children living in cold and damp homes, going to bed hungry, and missing out on the opportunities they need to grow and thrive.

The best way of supporting families through this crisis is by making sure benefits keep up with rising costs – but right now, they’re on track for a real terms cut. The UK government must act to support families and make sure benefits increase in line with inflation.

Image: Shutterstock

Revealed: The streets where nearly everyone is in fuel poverty

Areas of the Midlands and Yorkshire have topped an unwelcome league table of fuel poverty.

New data projections from the End Fuel Poverty Coalition reveal that the fuel poverty crisis gripping the country is affecting some areas worse than others.

With the increase in energy bills coming into effect on 1 April 2022, over 6.3m households (27% of homes in England) will wake up in fuel poverty that morning.

In parts of the Bushbury South and Low Hill area of Wolverhampton, the situation is even more severe where 88% of households will be in fuel poverty from 1 April.

But Wolverhampton, which was recognised in the Government’s Levelling Up white paper, is not alone in seeing the vast majority of homes in fuel poverty.

The Washwood Heath area of Birmingham, the Castle & Priory ward of Dudley, the Shelton area of Stoke and the area near Smethwick Galton Bridge in Sandwell will also all see fuel poverty levels soar to over 80% of homes.

Just outside the 80% barrier, come parts of Smallbridge & Wardleworth in Rochdale, Bramley in Leeds, Richmond in Sheffield, Derwent in Derby and Nechells in Birmingham.

While these areas are among the highest levels of fuel poverty in the country, in terms of Parliamentary constituencies Birmingham Hodge Hill (55% of households in fuel poverty from 1 April 2022) tops the league table.

This is followed by Barking (48%), Stoke on Trent Central (47%), Wolverhampton South East (47%), Walthamstow (47%) and Birmingham Yardley (47%).

And in a blow to the Government’s levelling up agenda, “red wall” Tory MPs will be feeling the heat from constituents forced into fuel poverty by prices which were spiralling before the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

In Stoke Central, where Conservative MP Jo Gideon was elected, the number of homes in fuel poverty has doubled from 9,275 in 2019 to an estimated 18,463 in 2022.

Fellow Tories in Wolverhampton North East (Jane Stevenson MP), Walsall North (Eddie Hughes MP), Stoke on Trent North (Jonathan Gullis MP) and West Bromwich East (Nicola Richards MP) have also seen the numbers of constituents in fuel poverty rapidly increase since the 2019 election. [4]

Rachael Williamson, Head of Policy at Chartered Institute of Housing, said:

The Government’s ambition to ‘level up’ is being undermined by its inaction in meaningfully tackling fuel poverty. We need clear, long-term plans to tackle homes with poor energy efficiency, especially in the private sector, and financial support to address the gap in the meantime. Without this we will see many more households and families plunged into poverty. This was an issue before the invasion of Ukraine but is quickly becoming a real crisis.

Barking & Dagenham remains the local authority with the highest levels of fuel poverty after 1 April 2022 (44.7% of households) and while the West Midlands and Yorkshire continue to dominate the top ten, it is not just cities that suffer.

Around a third of households in market town Kings Lynn and rural West Norfolk will be in fuel poverty (33.8%), as will similar numbers in North East Lincolnshire (33.2%), Herefordshire (32.9%) and Shropshire (32.8%).

On the Chancellor’s home turf, 14,000 households in his constituency of Richmond (Yorks) will be in fuel poverty, with the numbers in wider Richmondshire also among the worst in rural England (32.3%).

Paul Dixon, Rural Evidence Manager at Action with Communities in Rural England, commented:

Rural residents have some of the hardest to heat homes. Additionally, about a million households rely on heating oil which has increased in price by more than three times since the same period last year. Government must recognise and address the particular vulnerabilities of people in this situation.

William Baker, of Solutions to Tackle Energy Poverty, said:

Local authorities will need to step up to tackle the tsunami of fuel poverty that will hit them over the next few months. We urge them to take coordinated action across local services, particularly through improving energy efficiency standards, providing income maximisation advice and protecting private rented sector tenants. And the Government must provide them with the resources to do this.

A spokesperson for the End Fuel Poverty Coalition, said:

Energy prices were rocketing before the Russian invasion of Ukraine as this data shows. Since 2019 households across the country have been feeling the squeeze as the implications of the  Government’s inaction on fuel poverty have been realised.

Charities and campaigners have been warning for years that fuel poverty is a social justice crisis, a public health emergency and a national security priority, but the Government took little action.

We need to see urgent help for households in fuel poverty now combined with a long-term plan to improve energy efficiency of our homes and investment in a sustainable, renewable-led, energy mix.

The Government has talked about this for long enough, but fails to match words with action – the Chancellor’s attempt to provide support for people through a “loans dressed up as grants” scheme is a prime example of this.

Ruth London from Fuel Poverty Action added:

Bad housing, profiteering on energy, and government foot dragging on the urgent switch to renewable energy have combined to create a disaster for millions of people.

The icing on the cake is that the pricing system discriminates – through high standing charges and through prepayment meters, poorer households in areas like these pay more per unit than households in better off regions. Just how much injustice and deprivation do they think people will put up with?

Jo Gilbert from Butterfly Energy said:

It’s no longer a question of heating or eating, sadly a large proportion of people can no longer afford to do either. The government needs to stop knee jerk responses and to take long term sustainable action, Rebates on council tax and £200 loans will not remedy this crisis.

Jess Ralston an analyst at the Energy & Climate Intelligence Unit, commented:

Energy efficiency reduces gas demand, shrinking our bills and weaning us further off gas from places like Russia. For the families in this report – many living in places that voted in the Conservatives in levelling up areas at the last election – better insulation is a lifeline against rocketing bills. For our energy system, it’s a shield against volatile fossil fuel supply and prices. If there was ever a time for energy efficiency, it’s now; insulation is the clear winner for lowering bills and improving energy security in the short term.

Ramping up existing schemes that deliver efficiency, like the Energy Company Obligation, is one way to level up homes while levelling down bills. Other policies to get our housing on track for net zero like the boiler upgrade scheme, that gives grants to swap out gas boilers for cleaner alternatives that could be hundreds of pounds cheaper to run this year, could help to isolate British families from the impacts of surging fossil fuels. It really is a no brainer.

For more on the methodology used in this news story, read more here.

Image: Shutterstock

Joint call for action on fuel poverty and fossil fuels cut

Civil society groups – including the End Fuel Poverty Coalition – have called for greater action on fuel poverty and to cut fossil fuels in the Government’s upcoming Energy Independence Plan

37 organisations spanning fuel poverty, social justice and environmental campaigns wrote to the government on 15 March 2022 calling for greater support for vulnerable households and for decarbonisation to help bolster the UK’s energy security in the imminent Energy Independence Plan and Spring Statement.

The joint letter, addressed to the Prime Minister, Chancellor and Business Secretary, calls for immediate extra support for households facing huge energy price rises, scaled up measures to reduce our gas use and a shift away from fossil fuels to renewable energy.

Measures called for include targeted support that covers the expected rise in energy bills for households on low incomes, long term funding and support for insulation and heat pumps, an expansion of wind and solar energy, and a commitment to rule out new North Sea oil and gas and keep the fracking ban in place.

The letter calls on the government to “ensure the upcoming energy independence plan protects vulnerable households, lowers bills, tackles the climate emergency, addresses air pollution, and gets the UK off gas.”

Juliet Phillips, Senior Policy Advisor at E3G said:

Green homes are the most obvious energy security solution which no one is talking about. Energy security starts at home: this means supercharging a renovation wave to cut energy bills and permanently reduce the exposure of families to volatile international gas markets – boosting energy efficiency and rolling out electric heat pumps. The Chancellor and Prime Minister must seize the moment and push forward an ambitious, long-term plan to support warmer, healthier homes which are cheaper to run.

Rebecca Newsom, Head of Politics at Greenpeace UK said:

This is a fossil fuel crisis, and new fossil fuels from the likes of fracking or new North Sea oil and gas aren’t going to solve our problems. We can reach true energy freedom and stand up to Putin, but that needs the government to back properly funded measures to support households, accelerate renewables and properly fund home upgrades to reduce our use of gas altogether. Otherwise this risks being yet another plan that props up our dependence on volatile and expensive fossil fuels at just the moment we can least afford it.

Dan Paskins, Director of UK Impact, Save the Children UK said:

 The cost-of-living crisis, fuelled by soaring energy prices, is totally unsustainable and is hitting the lowest-income families the hardest.

Parents are telling us that they’re struggling to meet basic needs, leaving them having to make impossible choices between heating their homes and buying clothes for their children, and children are paying the price.  Without action, things are only going to get harder.

In the upcoming Spring Statement, the Chancellor has an opportunity to ease this burden on families by uprating benefits in line with April’s inflation rate, and invest to keep homes warm and bring fuel bills down.

A spokesperson for the End Fuel Poverty Coalition added:

We’re now seeing the dire consequences of the energy bill crisis come to fruition.

Up and down the country people are scared about how they will make ends meet come 1 April 2022.

A British Medical Journal paper published last week also set out the frightening health consequences for people living in cold, damp homes.

We need greater urgent financial assistance throughout 2022/23 for those in fuel poverty and a long term plan that will rapidly improve energy efficiency of homes across the country.