UK second only to Estonia on fuel poverty

The UK is second only to Estonia among European countries for the number of people struggling to pay their energy bills, according to campaigners.

Members of fuel poverty alliance Energy Bill Revolution have written to Prime Minister David Cameron demanding that party leaders act on the “national scandal” of cold homes.

The alliance, which includes Age UK, Barnardo’s and Consumer Futures, said investment in home insulation was the only way to control high energy bills.

Age UK’s charity director, Caroline Abrahams, said: “With fuel poverty blighting the lives of millions of households, it is nothing short of a national scandal that the UK is lagging so far behind other countries when it comes to tackling the problem.

“Decisive action is urgently needed to tackle the root cause of the problem – the UK’s poorly insulated housing.”

The alliance said “woeful” levels of insulation meant British homes were far less efficient than properties in countries such as Germany and the Netherlands.

There are more than five million UK households living in fuel poverty, when people spend more than ten per cent of their income on energy to keep warm.

The problem is worsening as energy prices increase. Scottish Power became the latest of the biggest six suppliers in the UK to announce price rises on Thursday, following SSE, British Power and npower.

The fuel poverty alliance said it wanted to see carbon tax spent on an ambitious programme of home insulation, claiming that it could save up to £500 a year on a family energy bill and end fuel poverty in the UK.

Ed Matthew, director of the Energy Bill Revolution campaign, said: “Our political leaders are falling over themselves to come up with headline-grabbing ways to cut energy bills yet they fall woefully short of a true solution to the energy bill crisis. By far the biggest opportunity to cut energy bills is to fully insulate the UK’s leaky homes.”

A Downing Street spokesperson said: “We are committed to helping people pay their bills this winter. That’s why we have cold weather payments, winter fuel payments worth up to £300, an enlarged state pension and the Warm Homes Discount which is helping two million households, including well over 1 million of the poorest pensioners, by taking £135 off their bills. We are also helping people by legislating to force energy companies to put customers on the best deal”.

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