Monday, 1 December 2014

An end to warm words?

We’ve had our first winter nights where the temperature has dropped below freezing.

About 13 million pensioners are receiving their letters advising that their Winter Fuel Payment (WFP) of £200 (£300 for a household with someone aged 80 or over) will be paid shortly.

I’m delighted that David Cameron resisted the pressure from his own back-benchers to do away with the WFP, although disappointed that he decided to give tax breaks to millionaires rather than updating the WFP with inflation. Energy bills have actually increased significantly more than inflation. Partly in recognition of that, for the winters 2008/2009 to 2010/2011, additional payments worth £50 (or £100 for the 80+ households) were made alongside the standard WFP. Cameron and Clegg cancelled these after 2010/2011.

Of course, paying additional sums towards fuel bills was only one part of the last government’s energy affordability strategy. The plan was to secure sustainably warm homes. It had to combine investing in more energy efficient homes and more efficient fuel technologies as well as supporting bills for those least able to afford them.

Poor energy efficiency is the single biggest reason why so many households are in fuel poverty. A household in the least energy efficient home is currently paying, on average, £965 a year more and is five times more likely to be in fuel poverty than a household with average levels of energy efficiency.

The Warm Front programme saw more than 2 million homes get significantly improved insulation and energy efficiency. In addition, the Decent Homes Programme not only improved insulation standards, but also saw more than a million homes get new energy efficient heating systems. For me, ‘Warmth up; bills down’ was a winning formula.

However, Messrs Cameron and Clegg have managed to replace a warm homes’ programme with a warm words’ policy. They replaced highly successful programmes with ‘The Green Deal’, which has managed to benefit just 2581 households in the last 2 years?  

So, it’s a case of fuel bills up, households in fuel poverty up and action to improve energy efficiency, dramatically down.

You can have your say about this.