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15,000 'struggling to pay their energy bills'

By Plymouth Herald  |  Posted: June 05, 2012

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Nearly 15,000 families in Plymouth are struggling to pay their energy bills, latest figures show – and the number is set to grow in the wake of price hikes.

Official data reveals that there were 14,990 city households (14 per cent) which spend more than 10 per cent of their income on heating their homes – the benchmark of fuel poverty.

In the South Hams it is 6,603 (18 per cent) and in Cornwall 44,706 (19 per cent).

Due to the time lag in publishing the statistics from 2010, it has been warned that the figures underestimate the current problem following subsequent price increases.

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Recent rising costs mean the numbers now are likely to be much higher, but this data will not be available until 2013 and 2014. The number of households in fuel poverty dropped in Plymouth by 4,493 in 2010 compared to the previous year, in the South Hams and Cornwall by 1,702 and 14,796 respectively.

This fall reflected the national trend, and was attributed to relatively stable energy prices at the time and reduced energy consumption.

Energy and climate change minister Greg Barker said: “I am encouraged by the fall in fuel poverty in the period to April 2011, but there is no room for complacency.

“Fuel poverty remains a serious national problem and the Coalition is absolutely committed to tackling it.

“People can still get help with heating and insulation through Warm Front.

“Around two million households will get money off their energy bills this year through the Warm Home Discount scheme.

“However, our ambitious new policies including the Green Deal will go much further. The Green Deal will help people pay for home improvements through savings on their energy bills with extra financial help for the most vulnerable.”

Consumer groups warned the dip in fuel poverty levels in 2010 reflected lower energy prices at the time.

Consumer Focus director of energy Audrey Gallacher said: “But as the average annual bill has risen by over £150 since then, many more people are now affected.

“Part of the reason why consumer bills are rising is to fund measures to make our energy supply cleaner and more secure.

“But our bills also include ‘green taxes’ which just go straight to the exchequer, not to improve the energy market or to make Britain more energy efficient.

“Some of this extra revenue could go a long way to plug the funding gap in providing help to those who need it most.”

Labour’s Shadow Energy Secretary, Caroline Flint, said: “Soaring energy bills are hurting families and pensioners, already hit by the recession made in Downing Street.

“With rising energy bills and cuts to help for families and pensioners, the Government’s own advisers are warning that fuel poverty could rise again.”

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  • Peter20113  |  June 05 2012, 6:42PM

    @nevman ..and that is the crux of the problem, the life some of us want to lead is no longer available, prices are going up and it is really time to look at different ways of making ends meet. Unlike you, I was not trying to be patronising

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  • Bob_Wickerman  |  June 05 2012, 5:58PM

    My previous electricity supplier was thoroughly untrustworthy, their paper statements are deliberately confusing and only after i pestered them did i find out i was entitled to a big credit refund on my key meter. It's the old and infirm who i feel sorry for because they're being fleeced without knowing it.

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  • Nevman  |  June 05 2012, 2:38PM

    @Peter20113: Perhaps you'd like us to eat cake, which doesn't need any heating at all?

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  • Peter20113  |  June 05 2012, 12:43PM

    @Tessa43 Some ideas. Why not make a flask of coffee - you only need boil the kettle once Also we use a slow cooker almost daily to make stews and soups - these use about 15 p of electricity to cook a meal for 4

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  • timplymouth  |  June 05 2012, 12:38PM

    Fuel poverty is a nonsense. 10% of your income could be a lot of money or not very much money, it depends how much money you have coming in. People should stop using this term. I know you lot love to moan about privatisation but billions of pounds have been invested in our utilities by private companies. Without it the public would have had to stump up that money and taxes would have had to go up. The price your paying now is for the decades of under investment in the utilities whilst they were under public ownership.

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  • micromarke  |  June 05 2012, 12:11PM

    Every man and his dog moaned like crazy before Privatisation. I was employed in a Senior position within the Electricity Supply Industry when Nationalised and predicted exactly what would happen when Private Investors got their grubby maulers on the Industry. SWEB(Now Western Power) is USA owned!!.Say no more.Totally out of control.British Gas..Not really!!.My Gas and Electricity is circa £1500 per year,that is equal to 10 Weeks Married mans State Pension for me!!.

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  • shipmateron  |  June 05 2012, 11:54AM

    People can always eat something hot, Whinger, lateral thinking people! In my youth most homes didn't have central heating. If people got cold they just put another layer on, or lit the fire with real wood collected from an actual wood, not bought at the local garage. You just don't know you're born these days.

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  • Tessa43  |  June 05 2012, 11:52AM

    We hardly used our heating this winter even though our back door, which is situated in our living room, doesn't fit properly. (Thanks to the landlords). We all asked for snuggies for Christmas and had those and blankets wrapped around us. It is the Electric and water that is killing us. I am now sitting in the dark to watch TV. I don't drink as many cups of coffee, I have pop instead or juice. I don't know where I can cut back anymore. I am a married woman and have a teenage son living at home, if I am finding it hard what about the pensioners? It is about time something was done all these companies have nice big profits at the end of the year whilst we are all struggling. Who else had a £239 water bill for 3 months?

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  • Anotherbloke  |  June 05 2012, 11:28AM

    I really dont know how ANYONE survives these days, I really dont. No quality of life anymore for a majority of folk.

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  • whinger7643  |  June 05 2012, 11:24AM

    Statistics are just a means for politicians to bend and twist to their advantage. The reality is there are many more old folks and low earners having to choose between eating or keeping warm, while the fatcat public utility directors sit totting up their obscene salaries and bonuses.

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