Tory leadership hopefuls face fuel poverty crisis in constituencies

New estimates, first reported in the i Paper, have revealed the impact of the energy bills crisis on the constituents of the Tory leadership contenders.

The End Fuel Poverty Coalition has calculated that almost 60,000 households will be in fuel poverty in these four seats alone from 1 October 2022 based on current energy price cap estimates. 

Across England, the estimated total is around 7.7m households likely to face fuel poverty this winter (32%).

Across the four constituencies, residents of Liz Truss’ seat in South West Norfolk will be hit the hardest with almost 40% of homes plunged into fuel poverty – even after taking into account the current levels of support promised by the previous Chancellor.

In Rishi Sunak’s own seat, more than a third (37%) of households will be in fuel poverty this coming winter.

Without urgent action from the next Prime Minister, 28% of households in Kemi Badenoch’s seat and 26% of people in Penny Mordaunt’s constituency will also face fuel poverty.

Last week, a new campaign group was formed by some of Britain’s biggest charities, calling for the leadership contenders to promise urgent action to help people through the cost of living crisis.

The group wrote to all MPs standing in the contest to ask them to pledge to:

  • Provide financial support to people who without urgent action will be on the front-line of poverty this winter
  • Upgrade and insulate homes across the UK to bring down bills and prevent energy waste
  • Rapidly expand clean energy, which is now four times cheaper than gas, to urgently lower energy bills
  • Stop drilling new oil and gas fields so that we can escape our dependence on volatile fossil fuels.

None of the candidates have responded to the letters as yet (Tue 19 July 0700). 

Paul Dixon, Rural Evidence Manager for Action with Communities in Rural England (ACRE) said: 

This is a wake-up call for the Conservative leadership candidates and a reminder that fuel poverty is as much a problem in rural constituencies as it is in urban areas. The new Prime Minister must prioritise this issue and take decisive action to make sure everyone stays warm this winter.   

Ruth London from Fuel Poverty Action added: 

These demands are simple and urgent and there’s plenty of money available – including the millions of pounds being used to subsidise fossil fuel profiteers.  How can any of these candidates claim that saving lives is a priority for them, when they haven’t pledged action or even responded to this urgent letter?

Ian Preston, Director of Household Energy Services at the Centre for Sustainable Energy, commented:

We need to literally insulate people from the impact of future energy price increases! If we insulate our homes and buildings well, they’ll become more energy-efficient and it saves people money so they can buy other essential items. But more than this it also helps with our energy security by reducing our dependence on fossil fuels.

A spokesperson for the End Fuel Poverty Coalition, commented:

The figures show that drastically rising levels of fuel poverty are an issue right across the country, from the inner cities to our rural areas. Even in warmer weather, fuel poverty is a huge issue and this winter it will become devastating for millions.

Candidates in the leadership race have started to acknowledge the issue, but none have yet grasped the scale of the problem and the full range of actions needed to help people this winter.

Without a co-ordinated plan to end fuel poverty, one of the first acts of the new Prime Minister will be to preside over a miserable and dangerous winter for millions of households.

Tessa Khan, director of Uplift said:

What actions will they, as Prime Minister, take to help people through this winter and permanently lower energy bills? This is what people are interested in, not this parade.

Despite this, we’ve heard virtually nothing from the candidates on their plans to fix our broken energy system, whether that’s support for upgrading the efficiency of homes, which is the cheapest, quickest way of reducing bills, or what they will do to accelerate renewables, which is now the cheapest source of energy. Proposals to expand oil and gas, or fracking, are for the birds with high gas prices predicted to stay until the end of the decade.

With winter less than 3 months away, the candidates for PM need to set out credible plans now for what they will do to help people stay warm this winter and in winters to come, because bills won’t come down otherwise. Unaffordable heating bills will be a stark reality for millions for years and it demands a coherent, practical response now.”

Methodology used to calculate the statistics can be read here.

Leading charities urge PM-hopefuls to end fuel poverty

Warm This Winter, a new national coalition group, has published an open letter in The Times to all candidates in the race to become the next Prime Minister asking that they urgently set out how they plan to address the cost of living crisis driven by soaring energy bills.

The letter calls on each of the candidates to use these next precious few weeks to set out practical measures for how they will help people now, and how they will ensure we have lower energy bills in future. 

The campaign, which is backed by the End Fuel Poverty Coalition, is pushing for practical solutions that have the public’s support, and which are ready-to-roll out now, including:

    • Providing financial support to people who without urgent action will be on the front-line of poverty this winter
    • Upgrading and insulating homes across the UK to bring down bills and prevent energy waste
    • Rapidly expanding clean energy, which is now four times cheaper than gas, to urgently lower energy bills
    • Stopping drilling new oil and gas fields so that we can escape our dependence on volatile fossil fuels.

A spokesperson for the End Fuel Poverty Coalition commented:

Based on current estimates, well in excess of a third of all homes will be in fuel poverty this winter, yet the candidates to be our next Prime Minister are ignoring the single most pressing issue facing families across the country.

Unless leadership candidates promise bold and decisive action, the next Prime Minister’s first act as leader will be to preside over the worst winter for millions of people in living memory.

Full letter to candidates

We are writing to you from Warm This Winter – a new national coalition representing 40 organisations and over 22 million people from across the UK during this time of national economic crisis – to ask what your plan would be as Prime Minister to address the cost of living crisis.

We are headed into a potentially catastrophic winter. In eleven weeks time, more than a third of households – many millions of British families –  may not be able to afford to heat their homes. Meanwhile, earlier this year, 2.3 million families on low income were going without enough food and were unable to keep their homes warm. 

According to the latest predictions, from October 1st the average annual energy bill will be over £3200. That means, for example, that the average pensioner will spend more than a third of their state pension on heating their home – and many people, including families, will have to choose between heating and eating. In the words of Martin Lewis last week: “millions of households will be forced into poverty unless we act. This is a genuine, urgent emergency.”

So far in the Conservative leadership campaign, no candidate has put forward a credible plan to support families, businesses, village and community halls, places of worship, hospitals and schools to keep their buildings warm this winter. Indeed whilst the public has grasped the scale and seriousness of the crisis heading our way, none of the leadership candidates seems to have done so.

We believe that in these next precious few weeks – when the Government should be planning and preparing for this winter – you should set out your plan for tackling the crisis of unaffordable energy bills, which are set to remain high until at least 2025. We know that this emergency, fuelled by the spiralling price of gas and by the war in Ukraine, does have solutions that are ready-to-roll out now – and that would also help us protect the future of the natural world – these include:

  • Providing financial support to people who without urgent action will be on the front-line of poverty this winter
  • Upgrading and insulating homes across the UK to bring down bills and prevent energy waste
  • Rapidly expanding clean energy, which is now four times cheaper than gas, to urgently lower energy bills
  • Moving away from drilling new oil and gas fields so that we can escape our dependence on volatile fossil fuels

Our members and supporters want to know what your plan would be – so we can have a proper debate on the most important and urgent issue facing this country. Whilst we may not all have a say in who becomes the next Prime Minister, we can ask that any candidate has a practical plan to keep people safe and warm this winter. 

We would be keen to meet with you to discuss this further.

Full list of signatories:

  1. End Fuel Poverty Coalition
  2. The Climate Coalition
  3. CPRE The countryside charity 
  4. Wildlife & Countryside Link
  5. Save the Children
  6. WWF UK
  7. The Wildlife Trusts
  8. Oxfam
  9. Fuel Poverty Action
  10. Fair Energy Campaign
  11. Robin Hood Tax
  12. The Centre for Sustainable Energy
  13. Energy Action Scotland
  14. Chartered Institute of Environmental Health
  15. Possible
  16. Ashden
  17. Austerity Action Group part of Social Workers Union
  18. New Economics Foundation
  19. Uplift
  20. Camden Federation of Private Tenants
  21. Regen
  22. Northern Housing Consortium
  23. Groundwork
  24. Advice for Renters
  25. Fairer Housing
  26. Friends of the Earth Scotland
  27. MCS Charitable Foundation
  28. Fairness Foundation
  29. Tax Justice UK
  30. Women’s Budget Group
  31. The Economic Change Unit 
  32. Wellbeing Economy Alliance Scotland
  33. IPPR
  34. Chartered Institute of Housing
  35. The Centre for Ageing Better
  36. The Working Class Economists Group
  37. Greenpeace UK 
  38. Friends of the Earth England, Wales and Northern Ireland
  39. 38 Degrees
  40. Action with Communities in Rural England
  41. %0

Business groups call for action on fuel poverty

Leading business groups, including the Advertising Association, Business In The Community, Food and Drink Federation, the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) and RenewableUK, have urged Conservative Party leadership candidates to support the millions of people facing fuel poverty.

In an open letter, the groups also call on the next Prime Minister to implement manifesto commitments on net zero and nature restoration.

The letter states:

In today’s challenging context, an accelerated rollout of low cost, clean energy, energy efficiency, and industrial decarbonisation is vital to protect the UK from the volatile global fuel prices underpinning the ongoing energy crisis.

This is an urgent priority as skyrocketing energy bills inflict considerable costs on businesses and push ever more households into fuel poverty.

Eliot Whittington, Director, UK Corporate Leaders Group said:

The Conservative Party has a significant track record of climate leadership. Their new leader will have a choice between building on this track record and delivering for the UK economy and society or abandoning it and condemning the country to fall behind on the energy transition and face unnecessary costs and risks.

Forward looking businesses want more, not less, ambition on climate action, especially as we see the ramifications of volatile fossil fuel supply chains ramping up the cost-of-living crisis and reducing regional energy security.

The next Prime Minister must centre climate policy and continue delivery of net zero and regenerating the UK’s nature.

Julie Hirigoyen, CEO, UK Green Building Council said: 

As prices soar businesses are looking for the next Prime Minister to deliver on the UK’s legal climate commitments, not ditch them.

Tackling the climate and cost of living crises are two sides of the same coin. Insulating our homes and businesses will bring bills down, bolster energy security and help achieve net zero carbon, whilst giving a real boost to the economy and industry.

Sandy Begbie CBE, Chief Executive Officer, Scottish Financial Enterprise said:

Whoever succeeds Mr Johnson as Prime Minister will face significant challenges, particularly tackling the cost of living crisis, accelerating economic recovery and addressing the pressing climate emergency.

New Prime Minister must make ending fuel poverty a priority

The End Fuel Poverty Coalition has laid down a challenge to the candidates for the Conservative Party Leadership Contest to confirm they will tackle fuel poverty if they become Prime Minister.

At the heart of the pledges the Coalition is asking candidates to make, is for them to fully commit to spending the full amount promised by the Conservative Manifesto for energy efficiency during this Parliament.

Candidates will be asked to support the following measures:

  1. Urgently address the operational issues with the package of support announced by the previous Chancellor in May 2022.
  2. Commit to further, short-term, financial support for people in fuel poverty this winter and to mitigate any further increases in the price cap over and above the £2,800 predicted by Ofgem in May 2022.
  3. Co-ordinated action to rapidly improve the energy efficiency of our homes, fulfilling 2019 Conservative Manifesto commitments and including a skills strategy to ensure work is delivered to the highest standards.
  4. Announce a review and subsequent reform of the energy supply market to consider the introduction of policies such as a social tariff, energy for all allowance and a total price cap ceiling.
  5. Work with energy firms to ensure the country has a secure, renewable-led, domestic energy supply.

The Coalition will write to MPs as they declare their candidacy and will publish responses received.

A spokesperson for the End Fuel Coalition commented:

The next Prime Minister could leave a legacy of setting the country on the path to ending fuel poverty.

But solving the public health and social inequality challenges caused by rocketing energy bills will require a full package of support to those in fuel poverty now – as well as measures to ensure no more households become fuel poor this winter.

At the heart of candidates’ policy proposals must be a commitment to implement their party’s 2019 Manifesto promises on household energy efficiency in full.