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

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