Number of households in fuel poverty rises to 2.38m


The number of households in fuel poverty has increased slightly, with more than one in 10 homes struggling with energy bills, official figures show.

There were 2.38 million homes in fuel poverty in England in 2014, the year for which the most recent figures are available, an increase of 1.4 % on 2013 when there 2.35 million households with high heating bills that push them below the poverty line.

Levels of fuel poverty are projected to have fallen in 2015 but are set to rise again slightly this year, the statistics from the Department of Energy and Climate Change show.

The gap between the bills that fuel poor households face and what they can afford to pay has reduced by a few pounds from an average of £379 in 2013 to £371 in 2014.

The total gap across all fuel poor households also shrank slightly from £890 million to £882 million in 2014.

Some households have been pushed into fuel poverty - facing high bills and low incomes - because they have seen a smaller than average increase in their disposable income.

In addition, fuel prices have increased more than improvements in home energy efficiency, leaving households with higher energy costs in 2014 compared to 2013.

But fuel poor households have seen smaller increases in their bills than the overall population, reducing the gap between what they can afford to pay and the bills they face for heating, hot water, lights, appliances and cooking.

Levels of fuel poverty are highest in the private rental sector, where one in five (20%) households struggle with their bills.

But the levels of fuel poverty are deepest among owner-occupiers, where the fuel poverty gap averages £437, compared to £372 in private rented homes, £228 for those in housing association homes and £188 in local authority properties.

People in the West Midlands, south west and north east of England have the highest levels of fuel poverty, with more than 12%, or nearly one in eight, households classed as fuel poor.

Levels of fuel poverty are much higher among the unemployed, with 28% of such households facing high bills and low incomes, but 9% of working families are also classed as fuel poor.

Poorly insulated homes, with the worst energy efficiency ratings of E, F or G, have a much higher proportion of fuel poor households.

The latest figures come after the Government announced a new energy efficiency scheme which would be more focused on tackling fuel poverty, but has a significantly reduced budget.

Peter Smith, head of policy and research at anti-fuel poverty charity NEA, said: "It is obviously hugely disappointing to see fuel poverty levels back on the rise following past reductions.

"It may only be a small increase but following yesterday's policy announcements it is a timely prompt that we need to see much more ambition from national and local government if we are to end the unnecessary cost and suffering caused by fuel poverty."

A Department of Energy and Climate Change spokeswoman said: "This Government is committed to providing vital support for those in our community who need it the most.

"2014 was a peak year for energy prices, but these statistics show that the extra energy costs faced by people living in fuel poverty decreased for the third year.

"This is down to people making significant improvements to install energy efficiency measures and that's why we are continuing our support of the Warm Home Discount scheme and we are refocusing the Energy Company Obligation so it effectively tackles the cause of fuel poverty."