UK fuel poverty doubles in five years

The number of households who are in “fuel poverty” has more than doubled in the last five years because of surging energy bills, according to official statistics.

Harry Wallop

With the average British fuel bill climbing to well over £1,000 a year – for many pensioners the largest bill they have to pay all year – a worryingly large number of people are struggling to keep their homes warm.

A household is defined as being fuel poor if it has to spend 10 per cent or more of its income on paying to keep the home adequately warm.

In 2003 the number of households hit a low of two million, but it climbed to four million in 2007 and then 4.5 million in 2008, the figures for which were published today by the Department of Energy & Climate Change.

This figure suggests that one in six households were fuel poor during 2008, a year which saw energy bills shoot up by 45 per cent.

DECC pointed out that since then the figure was likely to have fallen to 4.1 million, thanks to energy companies trimming their bills. However, this is still twice the level it was in 2003.

The figures were released just a day after the Treasury laid out plans to cut the emergency cold weather payments from £25 to £8.50. Senior Whitehall sources said that it was not “affordable” to keep the £25 level of payment that was introduced last year by Gordon Brown.

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