Over 20,000 struggle with heating costs
More than 20,000 households in Northumberland are struggling to pay their fuel bills, new figures suggest.
Campaigners say the number of people nationally who are unable to keep their homes warm is a “national scandal” as figures from the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) estimate that 20,640 homes in the area experienced fuel poverty in 2019.
That represents 14.1% of homes in the area – above the national average of 13.4%.
Nationally, around 3.2 million households were estimated to be fuel poor in 2019.
Projections published by BEIS suggest this figure will drop by 180,000 by this year, but fuel poverty charity National Energy Action (NEA) said there has been too little progress in recent years.
NEA chief executive Adam Scorer, said: “Fuel poverty is a national scandal and affects people in every part of the country."
He said this wasn’t helped by the demise of schemes like the green homes grant, which was launched in September to help homeowners install energy efficient improvements but was recently scrapped having helped less than 10% of the homes it aimed to.
He said there is a “huge opportunity” to tackle fuel poverty and climate change together, and called for large Government programmes to help people on the lowest incomes and in the draughtiest homes.
Simon Francis, co-ordinator of the End Fuel Poverty Coalition, said councils also have a “huge role to play” in alleviating fuel poverty, including by improving local housing and using central Government grants to help those most at risk.
A Local Government Association spokesman said: “Councils should also be given greater flexibility around introducing landlord licensing schemes, so they can ensure private rented sector housing is also energy efficient.”
A government spokeswoman said 1.3 million fewer low-income households are living in the least energy efficient homes compared to 2010.
“We are committed to levelling up all regions of the UK, ensuring nobody goes cold in their own home, no matter where they live," she added.
"That’s why we recently announced £500m in funding for local authorities to upgrade homes of thousands of low-income households across the country, many in deprived areas.”