•People can be too poor to put their heating on and not be classified as living in ‘Fuel Poverty’
•Price hikes which cause more people to struggle with fuel costs do not cause more people to be classified as living in ‘Fuel Poverty’
•Fuel Poverty unjustly affects households with children and is steadily increasing for the over 75s.
So, last month we heard that British Gas are to increase their electricity costs by 12.5% from September, just as the weather gets cooler, nights longer and the nation reaches out to put ‘just one bar’ on their electric fire. Thanks, British Gas! Couldn’t have left it till spring to start increasing your £5million profit could you?
Looking at Fuel Poverty in Britain, I am appalled but not surprised to read that fuel poverty affects more single parents with dependent children than any other group. That’s right, we probably all knew it, but its official; it is children who are living with the heating off, cold showers and less hot meals more often than anyone else.
You may have opinions about the need for people to work their way out of poverty, perhaps you think if they didn’t try hard at school or graft in the work place then they should live with the consequences. But there isn’t a child on this earth that has ‘earnt’ their poverty.
So, to the real filth of fuel poverty
Government documentation explains how Fuel Poverty is calculated:
Fuel poverty in England is measured using the Low Income High Costs (LIHC) indicator. Under the LIHC indicator, a household is considered to be fuel poor if:
• they have required fuel costs that are above average (the national median level).
• were they to spend that amount, they would be left with a residual income below the official poverty line.
This new definition of the term ‘fuel poor’ was reported by The Independent in December 2013 to have instantly lifted 800,000 people out of fuel poverty overnight! Note, they are no better off or more able to pay their gas bill, but a definition change has helped solve the problem to the tune of thousands.
What does this mean?
If a household is extremely poor (below the poverty line) they won’t be counted as ‘fuel poor’ unless their gas and electricity consumption is above average. So when you read a headline stating that the government are reducing the fuel poverty gap, don’t be fooled; there are thousands of men, women and children living in poverty, unable to do a wash-load with the confidence that their pre-pay meter won’t run out mid cycle who aren’t being counted in the stats, simply because their gas and electricity bill is considered ‘average’ or below average in relation to all UK households of all incomes. And let’s face it, if you were totally broke, you would do your absolute best to keep your gas and electricity bills as low as possible wouldn’t you?
How will British Gas’ 12.5% rise in electricity costs affect the numbers of people suffering from ‘fuel poverty’?
Not at all! Well that’s great. Increase your prices all you like if that’s the case, ol’ BG! £5million a year profit does sound a bit on the low side and somebody somewhere probably needs a new yacht…
“The fuel poverty indicator is a relative measure, as it compares households to national income thresholds and national median energy costs. A change in income will only have an impact on fuel poor households if they see relatively larger income changes (increase or decrease) than the overall population; the same is true for household energy costs.”
(Annual Fuel Poverty Statistics Report, 2017. Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy)
Because you have to have above average fuel consumption to be counted in the ‘fuel poor’ data, an increase to prices of any magnitude, will not affect the government statistics because they will have simply created a new ‘average’.
So, in conclusion: if you’re so poor that you can’t cook your kids a hot meal or dry their clothes affectively in winter but you keep your gas and electricity consumption down below the UK average, you’re not in fuel poverty, and if fuel prices go up resulting in more people finding they’re unable to afford a warm shower every day, there are actually no more ‘fuel poor’ people in Britain.
In June the Conservatives announced their plans to cut the fuel allowance to all but the poorest pensioners. The Shadow Chancellor, John McDonnel published analysis suggesting the lives of 4,000 pensioners could be at risk as a result…
Pay Raises in Britain
1% (not guaranteed) – Teachers
1% – Nurses
1.5% – Soldiers
2% – Firefighters
7.3% – Multi-million pound Energy Company
Thanks for your fuel price cap promise, Theresa May. People voted to keep ordinary people’s lives just this side of manageable yet children are being tipped over the edge on your watch and you’ll not even count them in your numbers. #proudtobebritish
There is a whole host of other issues here too; far too many to do justice to within my 800 words: The highest proportion of ‘fuel poor’ households are privately rented; the highest proportion of people forced to use exploitative pre-payment meters are also in privately rented homes; pre-payment meters cost the customer up to £300 per year more than other customers.
Fuel poverty has been rising for people over 75 since 2013.
Fuel poverty is more prevalent in the homes of people of ethnic minority
Most recent data shows over 1.03 million households with one or more children are ‘fuel poor’
…To cover the whole shameful topic, I’d need another 10,000 words.