As this cold weather continues, we are all spending far too much money on keeping warm at home and many people are reaching the point of fuel poverty.
According to the Independent (29th March 2013), the UK is now bottom of the Fuel Poverty League for Western Europe with 19.2% of UK homes, or 5 million households spending over 10% of their income on heating. This figure is likely to continue to rise particularly as the Warm Front programme has been axed.
Fuel poverty is a contributory factor in poor health and premature death especially amongst the elderly. Age UK reported that “those living in poorly insulated, cold homes are three times more likely to die from a heart attack or stroke than those living in warmer ones”.
We would like to offer a couple of suggestions to the government to alleviate this appalling situation.
- Domestic heating oil is now four times the price it was ten years ago and the treasury’s income from VAT has risen proportionately. Why not reduce the 5% VAT on domestic energy bills to 3% or zero, particularly where the household contains pensioners or pre-school children? It is these households that are most likely to be at home and which will suffer from poorly heated living accommodation.
- Most low-income families live in rented housing. Unfortunately there is no incentive for landlords, particularly private landlords, to improve the insulation in their properties as they do not pay the energy bills. Why not require landlords to insulate all rented accommodation to the best standards possible, with some form of financial penalty on poorly insulated properties?
Without some changes to existing legislation fuel poverty is going to increase and without pressure on landlords to improve their properties, the ever vicious circle will continue. As a result we desperately need to update our Victorian housing stock to cope with the changing weather patterns of the future.