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How Tory's solve the fuel crisis: by redefining it

(6 Posts)
ttosca Mon 02-Dec-13 14:43:48

800,000 people ‘lifted’ out of fuel poverty – by redefining it

The Government is attempting to manipulate official figures to bring down fuel poverty, it is claimed today.

A clause in the Energy Bill will change the definition of the key poverty indicator, reducing the number of English households counted as “fuel-poor” from 3.2 million to 2.4 million overnight.

The new definition, which could come into force before Christmas, will instantly reduce the percentage of fuel-poor households in England by nearly a third, from 15 per cent to 11 per cent, according to calculations by MPs on the cross-party Environmental Audit Committee (EAC).

“The Government is shifting the goalposts on fuel poverty so that official statistics record far fewer households as fuel-poor,” said the committee’s chair, Joan Walley MP. “The changes to the fuel-poverty definition and target should be stopped unless the Government is prepared to make a public commitment to end fuel poverty altogether.”

Currently, fuel poverty refers to those households that need to spend more than 10 per cent of their income on fuel “to maintain an adequate level of warmth”. But under the new definition, contained in the Government’s forthcoming Energy Bill, which could be passed by the end of the year, it will apply only to households which need to spend more than average on fuel to keep warm and who would be left with “a residual income below the official poverty line” if they did.

According to Simon Fiander, who helped to draft the EAC report published today, the new definition will dramatically reduce the number of people in fuel poverty because it excludes anybody who needs to spend less than average on energy to keep warm – as many poorer households do because they are often smaller.

The Government has characterised the definition change as an attempt to “improve the energy efficiency of the homes of the fuel-poor”. The Energy minister, Michael Fallon, told Parliament in October that the new measure had the advantage of not just addressing the proportion of income needed for energy bills, but also the level of households’ wealth or poverty.

“The new definition allows us to understand much better what the actual depth of fuel poverty is in a particular household rather than simply the extent of it,” he said.

But last night the suggested change met with anger, coming as it does against a backdrop of inflation-busting hikes in gas and electricity bills and ahead of an expected watering-down of measures to subsidise insulation for poor households in George Osborne’s Autumn Statement on Thursday.

Official figures released last week show more than 31,000 people died needlessly during last winter’s freezing weather, of whom about 10,000 deaths are estimated to have been the result of cold homes.

Mr Osborne is set to announce that people buying houses will be offered £1,000 to spend on energy efficiency, while all householders will get £50 off their fuel taxes under a deal on green levies struck by the Coalition.

The bill reduction will come in part by stretching out the Energy Companies Obligation scheme, which provides free insulation to low-income households, over four years rather than two.

Jonathan Reynolds, Labour’s shadow Energy and Climate Change minister, said: “The idea that the answer to rip-off energy bills is to help fewer people make their homes better insulated just shows how David Cameron puts the interests of energy companies before ordinary people.”

Ms Walley, the Labour MP for Stoke-on-Trent North, added: “In the longer term, green levies could actually keep bills down if they drive energy-efficiency improvements that cut the cost of heating our homes. Insulating homes and supporting green technologies is vital to help the fuel-poor and cut the emissions causing climate change.”

The EAC report also criticised the Government’s decision to weaken its legislative commitment to fuel poverty. This means it will no longer require the elimination of fuel poverty by 2016, but instead ask for it to be addressed by a date to be set later.

A spokesman for the Department of Energy and Climate Change said: “The Government is tackling fuel poverty through schemes like the Warm Home Discount, which will help two million households this year, including more than one million low-income pensioners who will receive £135 off their bill.”
Fuel poverty: disputed meaning

* Under the current definition of fuel poverty, a household is “fuel poor” if it needs to spend more than 10 per cent of income to maintain 21C for the main living area and 18C for other rooms.

* The Government wants to change the definition so households will only be fuel poor if they have “required fuel costs that are above average and were they to spend that amount they would be left with a residual income below the official poverty line”.

* According to an MPs’ committee, the new definition will move more 800,000 households out of fuel poverty, as many poor households are smaller than average and cost less than average to heat. This means that even if heating costs a significant part of their income, a household still won’t technically be “fuel poor” because the amount it needs to spend to keep warm is still below average.

claig Mon 02-Dec-13 15:31:59

'How Tory's solve the fuel crisis'

The article has some valid points but it has missed out two significant facts.
The Tories are tyng to solve the fuel crisis be reducing fuel bills by £50 (it's not a lot, but it's more than New Labour ever did for people) and most signficantly by "cutting the green crap" (which was imposed on people by New Labour).

ttosca Mon 02-Dec-13 16:15:47

Read the article before commenting.

claig Mon 02-Dec-13 17:05:59

I've just heard on the news that Labour have referred to the real cut in fuel bills of £50 as "smoke and mirrors".

That seems a bit rich given that smoke, mirrors and solar panels is what the "green crap" is all about.

MissMiniTheMinx Mon 02-Dec-13 20:30:25

The bill reduction will come in part by stretching out the Energy Companies Obligation scheme, which provides free insulation to low-income households, over four years rather than two

£50 off my energy bill so that poorer people living in poorly insulated houses continue to pay more than necessary for longer. Fan-fucking-tastic Gidiot and Co'
and what shall I do with my measly £50, buy a treat or a cheap bauble?

And all the while the energy companies continue to rake in record profits.

niceguy2 Mon 02-Dec-13 23:01:24

Personally I think this is a huge win for Labour.

Firstly they pile on the green taxes, sod off then let the Tories take the flack for the rising prices.

Secondly they come up with some stupid unworkable 'policy' that would have the communists proud, Price fixing should have no place in a Western European economy.

Then ratchet up the rhetoric that plays goes down well with the electorate but devoid of facts. Thus forcing the Tories to go on the defensive.

The fact is that energy prices in the UK are actually very competitive when compared to the rest of the EU. source

Those who have invested heavily in green fuels are paying an even heavier price. But hey, that doesn't sound as good in the headlines does it? It doesn't go down well with those who are struggling to pay their bills that there's realistically little the govt can do other than a token effort.

Unfortunately because of all the political mud-slinging the bigger longer term problems are being ignored.

For example, as our nuclear and traditional sites are getting to the end of their lives now, what replaces them?

Green power? Don't make me laugh. Doesn't matter if you want to build wind turbines, solar farms or tidal power people will object. Plus the costs....nobody wants to pay for the cost of it.

Continue to rely upon Russian imports of gas? Erm......Russia isn't exactly the most trustworthy and reliable country.

Oil? We all want it. But we know north sea oil will run out. Fracking? Pfft NIMBY!

The bottom line is this. We all want ever more energy from finite resources. The law of supply & demand dictate that as those resources dwindle, prices go up. There are new supplies but we didn't make those calls early enough. Years ago Labour had the chance to commission new nuclear plants but wussed out.

Oh and don't forget we want cheap bills too!

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