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.