Thousands of Buckinghamshire households living in fuel poverty are set to be hardest hit this winter
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More than 14,131 families are already living in fuel poverty in Buckinghamshire - and soaring gas prices mean they face a grim winter.
Wholesale gas prices have reached record highs and Ofgem has warned they are likely to stay high "for some time"
This, sadly, means some people may have to choose between heating and eating this winter.
The JPIMedia data team researched the fuel poverty statistics for all local authority areas in England, and Buckinghamshire came out as one of the areas with a fairly low level of fuel poverty, with just seven per cent of the population affected.
But this still means 14,131 households out of the county's total of 216,950 households were struggling to afford gas and electric in 2019.
In comparison, the highest fuel poverty came in Birmingham, where 21 per cent of households struggle to stay warm. Other places suffering are Yorkshire and the Humber and the West Midlands.
The Joseph Rowntree Foundation, an independent organisation working to inspire social change, says the proposed £20 a week cut to Universal Credit and Working Tax Credits will make the situation even worse.
The foundation's deputy director of evidence and impact, Peter Matejic, said: “Rising energy prices are yet another indication that going ahead with the planned £20 per week cut to Universal Credit and Working Tax Credits would be a mistake. This increase was needed because levels of social security support were no longer adequate to protect families and going back to those levels now, when the cost of living is increasing, will be devastating to around 5.5 million families.”
He added: “Wherever they live, millions of families across the country will immediately face unnecessary hardship and be forced to make impossible decisions between feeding their families, heating their homes, or paying the bills.”
“If the Prime Minister wants to truly level up and improve living standards in the face of the rising cost of living, he must reverse this damaging cut or risk his premiership being defined by plunging people into poverty.”
A government spokesperson said: “We are making significant progress in tackling fuel poverty, with the Energy Company Obligation installing over 3.3 million measures in 2.3 million homes to date, replacing 750,000 boilers. Given its success, we have extended the scheme to 2026 and boosted its funding to £1 billion. But we want to go further and faster, ensuring nobody goes cold in their own home. That is why we are investing £1.3 billion into making homes more energy efficient, cheaper to heat and helping low-income families significantly reduce their energy bills.
“The uplift to Universal Credit was always temporary, to help claimants through the economic shock of the toughest stages of the pandemic. It’s right that the government should focus on our Plan for Jobs, supporting people back into work and supporting those already employed to progress and earn more.”
The spokesman added: "The Energy Company Obligation has already installed 3.3 million measures in 2.3 million homes and we are increasing the amount energy suppliers invest in energy efficiency measures for low-income households, extending ECO until 2026, and boosting its value from £640 million to £1 billion a year. This will help an extra 305,000 families with green measures such as insulation, with average energy bill savings of around £300 a year.
"We are also offering more targeted support for fuel-poor households with their energy bills, by expanding the £140 Warm Home Discount to an extra 780,000 households, helping a total of around three million low-income and vulnerable households each year with the costs of heating their homes."