The heatwave of a few weeks ago is beginning to seem like a dim and distant memory. Whilst it’s not time to don your scarfs and jumpers quite yet, there’s certainly a bit of a nip in the air. For many of us, that means turning thermostats back up and radiators back on. Unfortunately, for far too many people in this country, the added expense that heating a home brings in the colder months pushes them into poverty.
Over 2.5 million households across England are in this position and the Government’s figures show that the North West has the highest levels of fuel poverty – 13.1% of households in our region are fuel poor. Here in Tameside, the Government estimates that there are 11,757 households living in fuel poverty.
That means thousands of people in our borough are having to choose between keeping warm or feeding their families. Nobody should have to make that kind of decision in the UK – one of the richest countries in the world – in the twenty first century.
Poor insulation is a major factor in fuel poverty. Many of the poorest people in our communities live in houses and flats that are draughty and damp, so this is not just an issue of financial strain – it’s an issue of public health. Not only do people living in these properties face higher fuel bills, they are more likely to get ill. This not only puts people at risk but also puts greater pressure on our NHS, which is already overstretched.
It’s clear that many energy companies have been ripping off customers for a long time. After years of campaigning from the Labour Party, a price cap has finally been introduced but unfortunately it isn’t the level it needs to be to adequately protect households. That’s why the next Labour Government will introduce a proper cap, as well as insulating four million homes and reforming the energy market.
Until then though, we shouldn’t forget that for some people living in Denton the cold weather isn’t just an inconvenience but means poverty and illness.