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The News Line: News 1.1m households can’t afford to pay for heating! 1.1 MILLION households who cannot afford to heat their home to a comfortable level are in work, according to a new report by the Policy Exchange think tank.

The report, Warmer Homes, presents a character profile of the 2.3 million households in England living in fuel poverty.

It suggests that fuel poverty is a complex problem affecting a broad cross section of people – from low income working households to pensioners.

The statistics show that:

• Half of all fuel poor households (49%) in England are in work – or just over 1.1 million households.

• 10% of all households in England are in fuel poverty – but this rises to 19% of households living in private rented accommodation.

• Households in the most energy inefficient properties would have to spend up to £1,700 extra a year to heat their homes to a suitable level (between 18 and 20 degrees Celsius). The problem is most severe in older, detached properties, particularly those in rural areas off the gas grid.

• Fuel poverty has been made worse by rising energy bills – consumer gas prices increased by 128% over the period 2003 to 2013.

Richard Howard, author of the report, said: ‘Most people assume that it’s the elderly who are most at risk of not being able to heat their homes.

‘But the facts paint a startling picture. There are over 1 million working households struggling to afford their energy bills and living in under-heated homes.

‘Fuel poverty can severely affect people’s health, and also puts a strain on the NHS. It is absolutely critical that the government priorities support to those households most at risk.’

Meanwhile, Labour leader Miliband said yesterday that energy regulator Ofgem should be given new powers to force firms to cut gas and electricity bills – to reflect falls in wholesale energy prices.

He told the Andrew Marr Show he would demand fast-track legislation on energy in a House of Commons debate this week.

Ofgem currently does not have the power to force a reduction in prices.

Wholesale energy costs have been dropping in recent months, with the price of a barrel of Brent Crude oil falling to below $50 last week.

Miliband said: ‘We do want to see those wholesale costs passed on to consumers.

‘We’re going to bring before the House of Commons a vote in Parliament to say the government should bring forward fast-track legislation to ensure that we give the regulator. . .the power to cut prices.

‘We see wholesale costs go down 20% in gas prices over the last year and no reduction in bills.’

He added that the vote called by Labour during an opposition day debate on Wednesday would give Ofgem ‘the power to cut prices to bring immediate relief’.


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