Government figures show that 5005 homes in Stockton South constituency are officially classified as being in “fuel poverty”. We need far more action to tackle this scandal of cold, draughty homes.
The figures lay bare just how hard rising energy prices have hit household budgets in recent years. Millions of households both above and below the poverty line are noticing a real squeeze.
Labour has already promised to freeze energy prices after the General Election in 2015. We also need to do more to help people insulate homes in Stockton South. It has long been known that UK homes are among the hardest to heat in Europe, with too little insulation and leaky windows and doors. Countries such as Sweden have very little fuel poverty, despite much colder weather and energy prices that are similar to the UK. That’s because their homes are so much more energy efficient.
Despite this, boiler installation and insulation schemes under the Coalition Government have been drastically cut back, making it more difficult for people to improve their homes and keep them warm.
I have therefore joined with over 180 charities, campaign groups, unions and companies making up the Energy Bill Revolution coalition to call for a huge programme to upgrade the energy efficiency of our homes, starting with those lived in by our poorest and most vulnerable households. Previous work by the Energy Bill Revolution has shown that improving homes like this would create more jobs, be better for the economy, and be more popular with the public than any other major building project.
I have heard from one local man who was managing a company fitting new boilers for people in fuel poverty. With the watering down of the Energy Company Obligation he had to close the firm and lay off all the gas engineers. The same week I heard from a woman who was expecting a new boiler from them which of course never came.
Far from being “green crap”, these schemes were making a real difference. With unemployment figures still rising in the North East a revival of such programmes could put many people into much needed jobs at the same time as providing warm homes.
To add insult to injury, we have recently learned that wholesale prices of gas and electricity have fallen considerably but the savings have not been passed on to customers by their energy providers.
This out-of-touch Government prioritises big business instead of the millions condemned to live in cold homes.