New figures show high levels of fuel poverty
A new Government report has put a spotlight on the high levels of fuel poverty in Northumberland with more than 18,389 households now struggling to keep warm during the colder months.
The latest figures for 2015 reveal that 13.1 per cent of homes in Northumberland are classed as fuel poor, meaning they cannot afford to keep adequately warm at a reasonable cost given their income, with the national figure increasing to just over 2.5 million.
Fuel poverty levels are also higher in rural parts of the UK (14 per cent) compared to urban areas (11 per cent), with these rural households on average experiencing a £700 gap between the cost of their fuel bills and what they can actually afford to pay. This shortfall is twice as much as for urban homes.
The stark contrast is partly due to rural homes typically being older and less efficient, so harder to keep warm.
In response, OFTEC, which represents the oil heating industry, has written to MPs in Northumberland urging them to take immediate action to provide much-needed support for fuel poor households before the cold weather returns this year.
Malcolm Farrow, from OFTEC, said: “It is shocking that once again we are seeing an increase in levels of fuel poverty with more and more people unable to afford the most basic need of keeping warm. We are also seeing a growing divide between rural and urban households and it is disappointing so little progress has been made to address this crucial issue.”
The fuel poverty report highlighted the urgent need to make homes more energy efficient by upgrading boilers to modern, high efficient types and improving insulation.
This will help reduce the fuel poverty gap by lowering household energy requirements and therefore reducing fuel bills.
Mr Farrow added: “On average, rural households, such as in Northumberland, are 10 times more likely to have the lowest efficiency rating compared to urban homes.”
He added: “Our research shows these homes can save over £200 a year by upgrading to a modern, high efficiency boiler.
“That’s why we are calling on local MPs and the government to support those who are most vulnerable by introducing a boiler replacement scheme to help households upgrade and benefit from cheaper fuel bills. It is a prime time to introduce such a scheme as households on heating oil continue to benefit from low prices and could potentially put some of their extra savings towards the cost.
“However, we recognise that for some people already in fuel poverty it will be difficult to afford the upgrade, even with financial assistance. Fortunately, there are other low cost ways these households can reduce their heating costs such as regularly adjusting heating timers, bleeding radiators, improving insulation, purchasing oil over the summer when it is typically cheaper and having their heating system regularly serviced by a qualified technician to ensure it is working efficiently.”
More information and advice can be found at www.oilsave.org.uk.