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Fuel Poverty News

UK government project to combat fuel poverty runs out of money - 2 Dec 2009  

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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

Tens of 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 £1,000.


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."


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Source: Guardian