20 Jul 2011

More action needed to end fuel poverty

I recently chaired a Task and finish Scrutiny group into fuel poverty - see here.  Well today there was an excellent letter in The Guardian from Friends of the Earth and others challenging the government. I thought it was so good that I copied below and tweeted on it! Caroline Lucas was amongst those MPs calling for changes to improve the Bill. Here it is:

We hope that, like us, the government found the news that 5.5m households are now in fuel poverty both shocking and distressing (Report, 14 July). The response to this news must be a change of policy direction.

The Warm Front scheme, funding grants for energy efficiency, has been cut by two-thirds and will end in 2013. It will be the first time in over 30 years the UK has been without a publicly funded energyenergy bill will set up the energy company obligation to tackle fuel poverty. It should be focused on vulnerable and low-income households and communities. But even with this focus it is likely to be insufficient. Contributions from the exchequer, including revenues from carbon taxes, must be urgently considered to increase the scale of the scheme. The energy bill also introduces a minimum energy-efficiency standard for rented homes from 2018. While welcome in principle, this is two years after the target to end fuel poverty. One hundred and eighty MPs have called for it to be introduced in 2016.

Radically increasing energy efficiency of the housing stock is the only long-term solution to fuel poverty. Efforts to do this must move much faster, but it will still take years, so greater help with the cost of energy bills is essential. Those in and vulnerable to fuel poverty must not fear the coming winter. The Warm Home Discount, currently restricted to pensioners, must be expanded to include low-income families and those with a disability or long-term health condition.

These policies will not end fuel poverty; the government needs to develop a full roadmap to do that. They will, however, mark a shift from the current course, which will see ever greater numbers of households unable to afford to heat their homes as fuel prices rise. We believe it is time for a new start to end fuel poverty, and that doing so will bring dramatic social, economic and environmental benefits.

Craig Bennett Friends of the Earth, Mike O'Connor Consumer Focus, Michelle Mitchell Age UK, Neil Coyle Disability Alliance, Brendan Barber General secretary, TUC, Dave Prentis General secretary, Unison, Andrew Warren Association for the Conservation of Energy, Mike Hobday Macmillan Cancer Support, Jenny Saunders National Energy Action, Bob Smytherman Federation of Private Residents' Associations

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