Fuel poverty "set to soar"

Fuel poverty is “set to soar” and could be made even worse by rising energy bills, a consumer group has warned.Consumer Focus says that Government fuel poverty figures could be […]

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By Vicky Ellis

Fuel poverty is “set to soar” and could be made even worse by rising energy bills, a consumer group has warned.Consumer Focus says that Government fuel poverty figures could be even higher after customers have to deal with energy companies’ price hikes.

Yesterday DECC released figures that suggested a fifth of UK households – 5.5 million – were fuel poor, which is when more than 10% of a house’s income is needed to heat it properly.

Audrey Gallacher, Director of Energy at Consumer Focus said: “Worryingly the predictions for fuel poverty in 2011 are likely to be an underestimate as four of the Big Six have yet to announce their expected price rises. If these are in line with the increases announced from British Gas and Scottish Power around 12 million people, or 6.4 million British households, are likely to be in fuel poverty when the latest price rises hit.”

She added that millions of the poorest pensioners, families and disabled people could be forced to cut back on heating as a result.

Energy UK, a group that represents suppliers including the Big Six, says that companies have been working to help those affected by fuel poverty.

Christine McGourty, Director of Energy UK, said: “Energy companies spent more than £375 million over the last three years helping the most vulnerable people in society with their energy bills. And over the next four years, energy companies will be spending £1.1 billion to help those who need it most, through the new Warm Homes Discount scheme.”

The scheme was announced in the latest Government spending review, requiring suppliers to spend money to help vulnerable customers.