Last winter: 25,000 premature deaths

Caroline Lucas, Letter to Guardian, 2nd Dec

Dear Sir,

You rightly identify the failure of successive governments to tackle the national shame of ever more households struggling to heat their homes (Quarter of home now in fuel poverty – 02 December). This looks set to continue as fuel prices go up and government support for energy efficiency measures for the most vulnerable goes down.

Next year will be the first time in three decades that there has been no Treasury funded scheme for those in fuel poverty. Instead, the government is introducing a new energy company obligation (ECO) as part of its flagship Green Deal programme.

Earlier this year, Ministers assured me that this new Obligation would provide a “far greater level of resource” to tackle fuel poverty when it replaces the existing schemes, the Carbon Emissions Reduction Target (CERT) and Warm Front. But just this week, those same Ministers were unable to answer my direct question on how the ECO’s pitiful £325m a year for fuel poor homes is “far greater” the 2010-11 Warm Front spending of £370m, or CERT’s spending of around £600m a year on vulnerable households.

This is not just a question of pounds and pence. Last winter, according the Office of National Statistics, there were over 25,000 premature deaths in this country because people could not keep warm in their homes. Government inaction to control the oligopoly of the big, profit hungry energy companies, or to help households to cut their bills, means that yet more lives could be lost unnecessarily this winter.

The Government is currently consulting on the Green Deal and its ECO proposals. I would urge anyone concerned about the fuel poor to respond to this consultation, to ensure that all homes are properly insulated and the scourge of fuel poverty is eradicated once and for all.

Yours sincerely,

Caroline Lucas, MP for Brighton Pavilion and Co-Chair of the Fuel Poverty and Energy Efficiency All Party Parliamentary Group

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