A quarter of Bridlington are facing ‘fuel poverty’

UP to one in four households in Bridlington are in fuel poverty - and the problem is set to get worse amid spiralling energy costs.

A report to a key East Riding Council committee outlines the areas that have the highest level of fuel poverty of more than 26 per cent, which includes all three Bridlington wards.

Figures show that across the East Riding 18 per cent of households are in fuel poverty – where a household has to spend more than 10 per cent of its income on fuel to maintain a satisfactory level of heating - above the England average of 16 per cent.

The 2008 figures reveal that fuel poverty in the East Riding has risen by six per cent since 2006.

Councillor John Wilkinson, chairman of the environment and regeneration overview and scrutiny sub-committee, which considered the report, said he expected the problem to escalate, but said the council would do all it could to support those in need.

Coun Wilkinson said the council’s most effective response would be to help people insulate their homes.

“It’s an area the council doesn’t have very much in the way of duties and responsibilities, but we do have a lot of input into getting other authorities to move and putting people on the right track to where they can get help,” he said.

“It’s going to get worse as fuel costs rise and will affect a very vulnerable section of the community, which I think is mainly older people and young families that have got very little spare income.

“I think the council’s main responsibility is to explore the grants that are available to help people get extra insulation in walls and roof spaces.”

He added: “The council is concerned about this. We are doing all we can to assist vulnerable people involved.”

As well as blighting the lives of those in the fuel poverty, people’s inability to adequately heat their homes can have lethal consequences.

The report highlights a study published by public health expert Professor Sir Michael Marmott, which shows that excess winter deaths are almost three times higher in the coldest (least energy efficient) quarter of housing compared with the warmest.

Yvonne Kurvits, of Hull and East Riding Citizens Advice Bureau, said that the service was seeing an increasing amount of individuals concerned about fuel costs.

She said: “What tends to happen is people get into debt with their energy bills, so pre-payment meters are installed in properties, however the energy company often take a large proportion of money as arrears for the debt.

“People are finding it difficult to afford to pay for fuel, and we try and help as much as we can. We look at the whole picture when we give advice because unfortunately, it is very likely that people having problems with fuel costs are going to be having financial problems elsewhere.

“We contact energy companies and negotiate an affordable payment for the individual, but all energy companies are entitled to provide what are called ‘social tarriffs’.

“These offer reduced energy rates for those with low incomes, or those on certain benefits. The energy companies don’t advertise it but those struggling with fuel prices should contact the companies and see if they are entitled to help.”

A housing needs survey in the East Riding this year showed where improvements were most needed. A total of 22 per cent of households have 6mm or less of loft insulation and six per cent have no loft insulation – including eight per cent of households in Bridlington.

Altogether six per cent of households have less than half their houses double-glazed and 31 per cent said utility bills were a problem – an issue that was a “major problem” in Bridlington.

Government backed schemes such as Warm Front, which provide subsidies for the installation of energy efficient appliances or insulation, have seen funding slashed from £345m in 2010/2011, down to £110m in 2011/2012.

This comes after Scottish Power announced its decision to raise electricity prices by 10 per cent and gas by 19 per cent – a move that is expected to prompt rises by other suppliers and has led charities to warn that millions of people nationwide could be plunged into fuel poverty.