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COMMENT: ‘Something’s wrong when so many die while energy profits soar’

PUBLISHED: 16:45 09 February 2015

Catherine West, Labour's prospective parliamentary candidate in Hornsey and Wood Green.

Catherine West, Labour's prospective parliamentary candidate in Hornsey and Wood Green.

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Labour’s General Election candidate for Hornsey and Wood Green on energy suppliers and tackling fuel poverty.

"A cold house contributes to what statisticians call ‘excess winter deaths’. Thousands of older folk die each year in Britain as a result of living in a cold, damp home."

Catherine West

Something is terribly wrong. The number of households living in “fuel poverty” has exploded in recent years although the profits of Britain’s Big Six energy companies are rising just as dramatically.

The winners from the Coalition’s Green Deal are a handful of multinational companies and the losers are the nation’s most vulnerable; those who cannot even afford to heat their homes this winter.

Mr Cameron’s policy has failed. Concerted government action is now required to deliver fuel policy which actually works.

The National Energy Action Group estimates that in Hornsey and Wood Green alone, 4520 households live in ‘fuel poverty’, typically paying £327 more than their neighbours to heat their homes.

A cold house contributes to what statisticians call ‘excess winter deaths’. Thousands of older folk die each year in Britain as a result of living in a cold, damp home.

So widespread is fuel poverty that we need more government action to tackle it. Much of the ambitious fuel poverty reduction programme was cancelled by the Coalition in 2010. The Coalition’s Green Deal has been a failure in most of London as most people do not wish to ‘pass on’ borrowings to a future homeowner.

Much is being done to raise awareness of cold homes by local charities such as Age UK and Mind in Haringey.

The council is seeking funding for emergency heating work for vulnerable people. It also provides advice on loft and cavity wall insulation and a dedicated fuel poverty officer visits households with problems with their heating and fuel bills, including sourcing replacement boilers where they are old and inefficient.

Not only is tackling fuel poverty a good thing for our health, it could be a spur for the economy. The government should be using the money which is going to the energy companies from our bills to start a green revolution in retrofitting for cold homes, installing new boilers and solar panels and draft proofing.

Imagine how many young people could be taught through high quality construction apprenticeships if we put the money which is currently going into our fuel bills into a local Green job creation scheme.

In recent weeks has come evidence that the price of power (for new contracts from some providers) may finally be edging down.

This is not good enough. Wholesale costs of the energy giants, that is the price of their inputs such as oil and coal, has been plunging. As their profits escalate further, regulators must ensure the lower prices are passed on fully to consumers – rather than shareholders from the blue chip financial institutions of Paris, Berlin and The City.

[Blog: Politics]

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