More should be done says Government’s fuel poverty advisory group

27 March 2008 / by Rebecca Sargent
Fuel poverty remains a serious threat to three million households, despite the measures taken in the 2008 Budget, according to the Fuel Poverty Advisory Group (FPAG).

Fuel poverty is defined as a household spending at least 10 per cent of their income on gas and electricity. Energy costs continue to rise and, according to the FPAG, are currently about 50 per cent above the cost in 2003, just five years ago. The current credit crunch is stretching household budgets to breaking point, and the abnormally steep rise in energy bills has pushed millions of households over the fuel poverty line.

The Government has a legally binding Fuel Poverty Target for 2010, but, according to the FPAG’s annual report, “the Government appears to have given up,” on it. The Government argues that, due to the rise in energy prices, there will still be as many as 1.2 million vulnerable households in fuel poverty in 2010.

In response to this failure, the FPAG is looking to the Fuel Poverty Target for 2016 and claims that the target, which sets out to eradicate fuel poverty in all English households, can still be met. According to the FPAG, while the Government did attempt to address fuel poverty in the Budget with a rise in the Winter Fuel Allowance and a one off payment, there are better ways of spending that money to meet fuel poverty targets.

The FPAG believe that the money put into the Winter Fuel Allowance would be better spent on the Warm Front Scheme, which provides households with packages containing insulation and heating improvements up to the value of £2,700. In addition to this, the FPAG claimed that there should be more drive by the Government to ensure that people are making the most of their heating benefits.

Peter Lehmann, chair of the FPAG, said: “The Government has done a great deal on fuel poverty. However, they have not fully recognised the importance, in a world of high energy prices, of securing the highest possible energy efficiency – hence energy bills as low as possible – in the homes of low income and vulnerable households.”

The National Energy Charity (NEA) is in full support of the FPAG’s suggestions; Jenny Saunders, NEA chief executive said: “We believe the Government must commit to long-term and permanent solutions. Fuel poverty won’t be ended by piecemeal measures and token gestures.”

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