Politically Speaking by Jon Trickett MP: Many households unable to heat their homes
As Storm Arwen batters our region with Arctic winds, we should all spare a thought for the families who cannot afford to keep their homes warm this winter.
Jon Trickett MP writes: For many people in our area this is an extremely hard and dangerous time of the year.
According to the English Fuel Poverty Index there are 25,924 households in fuel poverty in our local authority.
This means that 17 per cent of all households in our area are unable to afford to heat their homes properly.
The consequences are deadly.
Last week the Office for National Statistics (ONS) released its yearly figures for excess winter deaths in England and Wales.
It is estimated that there were 63,000 excess winter deaths in winter 2020 to 2021.
The ONS believes 84 per cent of these deaths were linked to Covid and only 16 per cent directly linked to cold related illnesses.
However, others have pointed out that fuel poverty may have contributed to the deaths of those suffering from Covid too.
The National Pensioners Convention has said that “a lot of the older, poorer and more vulnerable people who tragically died from Covid, would also have struggled to afford heating.”
Cold temperatures are known to exacerbate a range of lung conditions and are likely to have put those with Covid at increased risk of ill health.
Older people are particularly at risk as they often live in older homes that are harder to heat and require a lot of energy to make warm.
Fuel poverty is a symptom of our broken economic model and deeply unequal society.
Poverty wages, insecure work, high energy bills, unaffordable and poor quality housing, are all major contributory factors.
Unsurprisingly, fuel poverty is unevenly distributed across our country.
In the South East of England 7.5 per cent of households are in fuel poverty, whereas in our region of Yorkshire and the Humber the figure is 16.8 per cent. This is a crisis that requires urgent government action.
Sadly, the Conservatives are making things even worse.
Earlier this year they broke an election pledge by scrapping the triple lock, which guaranteed the state pension would increase in line with earnings and inflation.
Meanwhile, inflation is going through the roof. Energy bills are rapidly rising.
Age UK has said this is threatening the standard of living of many pensioners and has estimated that 150,000 older households are likely to be plunged into fuel poverty this winter.
This is a shameful way for the government to treat our elderly.
I call on the government to introduce emergency measures to improve financial assistance for pensioners.
The cut to Universal Credit must also be immediately reversed. Families across our region are struggling to get by this winter because the Conservative Party chancellor has taken £20 a week from them.
The government must do something, urgently, about energy prices.
But it must also develop a long term strategy for our failing privatised energy sector.
We need a plan to improve energy efficiency in homes.
And as companies collapse across the country, it’s time to look again at public ownership of energy.