With a new report* revealing over 10% of UK homes are now living in fuel poverty, and a large proportion of these in rural areas, the Government is being urged to take action to support those households struggling to pay their fuel bills.
In 2014 the number of homes classed as ‘fuel poor’ increased by 1.4% to 2.38 million with the highest levels of fuel poverty seen in rural parts of the UK where houses are typically older, poorly insulated and therefore harder to heat.
The figures also show that the difference between the amount fuel poor households can afford to pay and the actual cost of their fuel bills is £371, a fall of just £8 on the previous year.
However, there is some respite for oil heated households who are continuing to benefit from a significant fall in oil prices over the past two years. An average three bedroom household now spends just £690 a year on fuel bills – more than 50% less than those on LPG and electric storage heaters and over £300 less than urban homes connected to mains gas.
Malcolm Farrow, from OFTEC, which represents the oil heating industry, commented: “This new report is deeply concerning and in 2016 it is shocking that fuel poverty is still affecting so many people. It is also disappointing to see that such little progress has been made towards addressing the issue. However, the report does emphasise that households who can upgrade to a modern, condensing boiler are far less likely to fall into fuel poverty and we know from our own research that homeowners can save over £200 a year by making this change.
“For this reason we are calling on the government to introduce a boiler replacement scheme which would provide financial support to help more households, especially those in rural areas upgrade their heating systems.
“However, we fully recognise those already in fuel poverty probably wouldn’t be able to afford to upgrade their boiler, even with considerable financial assistance. Fortunately, there are other low cost ways to reduce your fuel bills such as adjusting the timers on your thermostat, having your boiler regularly serviced by a qualified technician to ensure it is working efficiently and improving your loft insulation. We also recommend that households with oil heating buy their fuel during the summer months when typically it is even cheaper.”
*Annual Fuel Poverty Statistics Report, 2016
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