by Michael Smith (Veshengro)
To all intents and purposes two-fifths of families in Britain are either living in “fuel poverty” or in danger of tipping over the edge, research found.
Some 21% of households who took part in Legal & General’s MoneyMood survey said they are spending more than 10% of their income on gas and electricity bills, meaning they are classed as being in fuel poverty.
Meanwhile, a further 19% of those surveyed said they are almost paying this proportion of their income, suggesting a small hike in costs is likely to send many more homes into fuel poverty this winter.
The findings come after a string of energy companies recently unveiled price increases amid concerns that a confusing array of tariffs is causing many families to pay hundreds of pounds a year more than is necessary.
The Government has announced proposals to require energy firms to provide just four tariffs for each fuel and to place all customers on the cheapest price available for their chosen tariff.
But critics have warned that the plans could see an end to cheap deals, reduce competition and push up bills in the long run.
Mark Gregory, Legal & General executive director, savings, said: “Any rise in the amount spent on fuel is likely to have a significant impact on how the less well-off households cope with paying bills.”
Wales and London had the highest shares of households saying they are already living in fuel poverty at 31% and 29% respectively.
Households living in the South West and the East Midlands were the most likely to say they are almost living in fuel poverty, with a quarter (25%) of people saying this.
The study also found that there has been no significant improvement in the strength of household finances since this time last year, with an estimated 2.5 million homes still struggling to make ends meet.
The biggest problem is that many homes in the UK simply are leaky (no, not as regards to rain though that may also be the case) and lose heat through single-glazed windows, badly fitted windows, lack of insulation (whether cavity and/or loft), etc., and while the government, yet again, seems to be looking at building new towns, retrofitting homes does not really seem to be on the agenda.
Many a local authority owned home, and those that were formerly council homes and are now operated by the so-called housing associations, are still very much in need of having at least double glazing fitted and insulation of different kinds.
Those are the homes that families who can least afford to pay through their noses for fuel are forced to live in and who have no other choice but then to fall into this poverty trap.
However, the only thing that our politicians are interested in is how much more grocery allowance they can get, which currently stands at ￡160 per week, while the poor probably get that, or not even that, as weekly income.