People left without heating due to spending cuts, says fuel poverty group

13th November 2017 | Residential Energy

No gas boilers have been repaired since April under a government scheme intended to combat fuel poverty, as a result of spending cuts that risk leaving poorer Britons unprotected from the cold at home, according to a fuel poverty pressure group.

National Energy Action (NEA), which obtained the figures from the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), said the drop in official support via the energy company obligation (ECO) threatens the health of low-income households. Peter Smith, NEA’s director of policy, said, “This leaves thousands of people with existing medical conditions facing a winter without any effective space heating or hot water.”

Fuel poverty

Consumers fund the ECO through their energy bills, but its annual budget has been cut from the £800m to £640m as part of government attempts to reduce bills. The scheme’s spending has been concentrated on replacing a small number of faulty boilers, rather than repairing them.

But the number of replacement boilers being installed through the ECO programme has fallen from a high of 85,000 in 2013 to a low of 7,000 between April and June this year. No gas boilers have been repaired since April.

Temperatures in Britain were expected to drop below freezing on Sunday night as autumn turns to winter, with forecasters predicting that a cold spell could last for several weeks. A scattering of snow was reported in Cumbria on Sunday, the first in the UK this winter, with snowfall expected on higher ground in Scotland on Monday.

Dan Jarvis, the Labour MP for Barnsley Central, said the decline in funding for vulnerable households was causing unnecessary hardship. “Sadly I know all too well this is bound to have very negative consequences in my constituency, causing needless winter deaths and acute suffering.”

The lack of support for repairing and replacing boilers has been raised several times in parliament recently, but NEA accused the government of failing to recognise the severity of the problem.

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