8 Jan 2010

Fuel poverty is an evermore urgent issue

All this snow makes for lots of food for thought - I have been kept busy at work coordinating some services for vulnerable older people - locally have also heard many tales from folk - many are doing great things like checking on vulnerable neighbours, putting out grit, getting shopping, helping get credit for a leccy meter, etc etc.

I've also had reports of one guy taking a barrow load of grit from one of the bins in Whiteshill for his own use - seems a little unfair when we know how uncertain grit supplies will be - but I don't know details so I wont judge! And hey some cars are still moving much too fast.

Here in Bread Street few cars have moved at all - but a couple of non 4x4s have set off today - I await reports - one neighbour yesterday described sliding down the hill slowly to Humphreys End - safe but only because no one was at bottom or coming up. I am possibly going out this afternoon for a meeting but may well end up parking on main roads instead of returning up that hill?

So we have the worst winter in 30 years and temperatures going so very low - some will know we have a weather station at Selsey - see: www.selsleyweather.co.uk. They recorded minus 7.3 yesterday at 14.40!!!

All this highlights again the issue of fuel poverty. Research this month by the National Housing Federation, suggests that more than seven million households struggle to pay their fuel bills: three million more than the official estimate. A household is in fuel poverty if it needs to spend 10% or more of it's income on fuel to maintain adequate warmth and meet other energy needs.

The research also found that two-thirds of people in "fuel poverty" said they heated their homes less than would like because they could not afford the high prices of gas and electricity.

Many of our poorest pensioners are struggling to afford paying for essentials like food and heating. Yet despite this‚ up to £5 billion in benefits is still going unclaimed. It has never been more essential for the Government to launch a high profile campaign to get vital cash into the pockets of older people who need it‚ with a view to moving towards an automatic benefits payment system.

Fuel poverty has been identified by tenants in Stroud District as their highest priority in last years Rent 2B Spent consultation. It is also a key issue that the inquiry Scrutiny team I chair is considering - I would welcome any thoughts locally on this.

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