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.

Historic government data doesn’t show true fuel poverty picture

A spokesperson for the End Fuel Poverty Coalition commented on the latest release of historic fuel poverty data by the Government and its estimates of the levels of fuel poverty today:

Today’s 2020 historic fuel poverty data shows just how significant the Government’s failure to tackle fuel poverty has been.
The impact of measures taken pre-pandemic has barely shifted the dial – and we know very little has been done since 2020 to change the picture.
Indeed, the situation has become much, much worse.
Estimates from charities working in fuel poverty consistently predict that more than 6m households in England are now in fuel poverty – due in part to the energy bills crisis.
We need urgent help for households in fuel poverty now combined with a long-term plan to improve energy efficiency of our homes and a sustainable, renewable-led, energy mix.

The End Fuel Poverty Coalition’s latest estimate is that 6.3m households (26.7%) in England will be in fuel poverty from 1 April 2022 as a result of recent price increases.

A briefing from National Energy Action sets out the background to the discrepancies between official data projections and the reality of fuel stress and energy poverty on the ground, while the charity’s analysis suggests the Government is 60 years behind its target to end fuel poverty.

Image: Shutterstock

Latest fuel poverty data published

The latest data shows that 2.4m households are classed as being in fuel poverty in England.

This represents 10.3% of the population, which is down 0.7 percentage points from the previous figures.

The figures are based on the “old” definition of fuel poverty and not the one recommended by the End Fuel Poverty Coalition in its response to the fuel poverty strategy consultation.

Therefore, the numbers should be treated as an under-estimate of the scale of the problem.

Additionally, the Government has admitted that it does not have enough information to develop assumptions about the impact of Covid-19 on the numbers of households in fuel poverty.

Reports suggest that domestic energy use has increased 15% in the UK during lockdown and the huge increase in the number of people applying for Universal Credit suggest that many more may be struggling with their energy costs.

Adam Scorer, Chief Executive of fuel poverty charity National Energy Action which is a member of the End Fuel Poverty Coalition, said:

Every year around 10,000 people die directly as a result of a cold home. Many thousands more who cannot afford to keep their homes warm are hospitalised, suffer from a severe respiratory condition or just shiver in damp, cold homes.

Over the last decade more than 100,000 people in the UK have lost their lives to a cold home. It is chronicled each year in official excess winter death statistics. Unless the numbers are exceptional, that annual figure seems to be regarded as not ‘excessive’ at all, but within the bounds of some perverse statistical acceptability.

The impact of Covid-19 is truly horrific. But we have been fortunate that, so far, the virus has struck hard during warmer weather.  The possible coincidence of a further wave in a cold winter should make us think long and hard about the steps we need to take to avoid the deadly collision between Covid-19 and fuel poverty related mortality.

Among the many policy decisions delayed due to the coronavirus response are new Fuel Poverty Strategies, decisions on the main fuel poverty programmes and the centrality of domestic energy efficiency within an infrastructure strategy. The delay is understandable, and if used to make the hard connection between cold homes, ill health and vulnerability to early death, that delay could be beneficial.

Cold homes create underlying medical conditions. They take thousands of lives. Deaths and suffering from fuel poverty are not novel, unimaginable or unprecedented. It is an annual catalogue of failure, as society and successive governments to protect the most vulnerable. We know the cause, the scale and the consequence. We know the solutions. At this precise moment we should be more alert to these issues than ever before.


Call for action on the crisis of the winter death rate among penisoners

End Fuel Poverty Coalition Member, the National Pensioners Convention (NPC), is calling upon the next government to respond to figures released today that show that excess winter mortality rates in 2018 to 2019 reached 23,200 in all English regions and Wales.

Excess winter mortality rates continue to be higher in females compared with males, with the figure highest in females aged 90 years and over. Respiratory diseases, such as pneumonia, remain the leading cause of death.

Today’s figures are proof that older people struggle with poor housing, rising fuel costs, and a basic state pension that is inadequate and bottom of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) league table.

Pensioner poverty is increasing with 2 million pensioners living in poverty and one in three older people living in homes with inadequate heating or insulation making their homes more difficult to heat or keep warm.

Jan Shortt NPC General Secretary said:

The next government must make a commitment to end fuel poverty and ensure that energy companies do not abuse the implementation of the next cap on prices.

The key to tackling winter deaths is to make sure older people have got a well-insulated, warm home and the income needed to pay the fuel bills.

This is a basic requirement of what a decent society should do. We need the next government to roll out a more effective programme to insulate homes, building more suitable properties for older people and raising the winter fuel allowance in line with inflationary costs of energy.

The End Fuel Poverty Coalition released a Manifesto setting out the changes the next government needs to make to end the scourge of fuel poverty.