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|* There are 32,000 households on
waiting list to get help
* Average gas and electricity bill tops £1,000 a year
thousands of vulnerable households will not receive help to fit
insulation and cut their fuel bills this winter after the
government's programme to redress fuel poverty ran out of money.
Last week, Eaga, the company which runs the Warm Front programme,
warned households who had applied for help that they would have to
wait close to six months.
The company, which said the scheme had seen very high levels of
demand, also wrote to local insulation suppliers telling them not to
book any more work until January. It said it was having to spread
the work out until March to make sure funding for the current
financial year lasts. Funding next year has also been halved. There
are 32,000 households on the waiting list. Unless the government
increases funding for the current financial year in next week's
pre-budget report, this figure will rise to 60,000 households, the
fuel poverty charity National Energy Action has warned. Waiting
times are likely to be even longer next year.
Chief executive Jenny Saunders said: "We are urging the chancellor
to allocate more funds as we are deeply concerned at help running
out at the start of the colder weather this winter."
Last year saw the highest number of winter deaths for almost 10
years, which was up by 49% on 2007/2008. While last winter was the
coldest for three years, campaigners said the huge increase in
deaths was mainly down to soaring fuel bills. The average annual
electricity and gas bill for households now stands at more than
In last year's pre-budget report, the government allocated an extra
£100m to its Warm Front programme, targeted at disadvantaged
households, such as those dependent on benefits, for example. The
government said it would also bring forward £50m of spending
earmarked for next year to the current financial year, bringing it
to £369m. Next year £195m has been earmarked. A spokeswoman for the
department of energy and climate change would not comment on whether
more funding would be made available.
A spokesman for Eaga said: "In order to manage this high level of
demand within budget and make sure we continue to keep the scheme
running as normal through to the end of the financial year, we are
extending the length of time that customers are having to wait. We
are proactively communicating with all customers who may be impacted
by this to ensure that they are aware of the situation, and
similarly all contractors registered on the scheme are aware of
developments. All work will still be completed in the usual way and
the scheme is still live and accepting applications as normal – none
of this has changed."