Urgent fuel poverty rethink call made

A LOCAL councillor has warned of a growing fuel poverty crisis in the area unless there is an urgent rethink of government policy.

Coun Colin Davie made his stark warning this week after new figures revealed that half of East Midlands residents worry they cannot afford their energy bills this winter as fuel prices continue to soar.

A Consumer Focus report also estimates that 27 per cent of households in the region already spend at least one tenth of their household income on fuel and are thereby classified as living in fuel poverty.

That figure has risen by six percent since 2009 and local councillors fear that without drastic changes to the government’s energy policy, it could affect half the population.

Chairman of Lincolnshire County Council’s fuel poverty task and finish group, Coun Colin Davie said: “If there’s no change we are going to end up with 50 per cent of East Lindsey living in fuel poverty.

“The government needs to think all of its policies regarding energy.

“They need to spend their money in a much smarter way so that we have better energy generation and a better deal for the consumer.”

The task and finish group will be meeting with energy suppliers to discuss ways of resolving the issue.

Coun Davie’s concerns are echoed by the Renewable Energy Foundation (REF) which believes the problem stems from the government’s renewable energy policies intended to meet EU regulations.

It claims these ‘green taxes’ are putting too much strain on households throughout the country and increasing domestic energy bills by as much as £170 a year.

Director of REF John Constable said: “The scale of the cost burdens likely to result from renewable energy policies alone undermines confidence that energy saving measures will be able to protect vulnerable consumers.”

Consumer Focus and REF both believe the current assessment of fuel poverty does not reveal the full extent of the problem.

They claim the 10 per cent threshold makes for a ‘binary’ definition of fuel poverty which ignores borderline cases and doesn’t take into account the number of households which spend 20 or even 30 per cent of their income on fuel.

Consumer Focus and the Citizens’ Advice Bureau have launched a campaign to help people who are in debt with their energy providers by advising them on their rights and offering solutions.

MP For Boston and Skegness Mark Simmonds has expressed his support for the ‘Plug the Debt’ campaign.

He said: “It is important that my constituents know that help is out there and I urge people to contact their energy company or local Citizens Advice Bureau if they are having problems paying their bills.”