Breckland Council – 1st September 2022
End Fuel Poverty Motion
Chairman, the End Fuel Poverty Coalition is a broad network of anti-poverty, environmental, health and housing campaigners, local authorities, trade unions and consumer organisations. I am grateful for their assistance compiling the motion that has been tabled today.
The End Fuel Poverty coalition believes that everybody has the right to a warm, dry home that they can afford to heat and power. I think that is something all of us here in this chamber would agree with.
Sadly, there are millions of households in the UK living in fuel poverty and almost 9,000 in the Breckland District alone. That figure is taken from the most recent Government data, data from 2020, the reality is that the figure will have increased by this point and will no doubt will significantly increase when the rises this year in the energy price cap get taken into consideration.
Nationwide, in 2020 there were 3.2million people living in fuel poverty in England, by January 2023 that figure is estimated to be 12 million. If it increases by the same proportion, Breckland’s 9,000 figure could very easily increase to around 20 – 30,000 households impacted – more than half of all households in our district.
To be clear, in England, you are regarded as being in fuel poverty if the household is unable to afford to heat or cool their home to an adequate temperature. Additionally, if you live in a property with an energy efficiency rating of band D or below you are regarded as living in fuel poverty, or when the amount you spend to heat your home leaves you with a residual income below the official poverty line.
Public Health England have stated that there is clear evidence on the links between cold temperatures and respiratory problems and the British Medical Journal notes that children growing up in cold, damp and mouldy homes with inadequate ventilation have higher than average rates of respiratory infections and asthma, chronic ill health and disability. None of this is new, but sadly the problem is getting worse.
The scale of fuel poverty is now vast – I am under no illusions that this motion before us today will not solve this issue and certainly not in the short term. There is no easy solution. But, adopting this motion will go some way towards addressing the challenge that we face, acknowledge the problem exists and build a framework for action.
Breckland Council can have an important role to play in helping to improve the energy efficiency of people’s homes – this was a key part of our opposition budget amendment this year that was sadly turned down. Breckland Council can help lever in funds to improve energy efficiency standards of all housing tenures and help to enforce existing regulations. We have the tools at our disposal to provide information and advice to local residents about reducing fuel bills, improving energy efficiency and information about their rights to welfare benefits and available grant funding sources.
The Local Government Association highlights a number of best practice examples from around the UK – showing that Council’s can and do take action to address this issue. Experience shows that effective solutions need to be tailored to local circumstances which is why Breckland Council needs to lead on behalf of our own residents, producing our own plan.
Nottingham City Council halved its fuel poverty rate in 3 years and Home Energy Lincolnshire, a joint scheme between the County Council and all of the district councils in the area, saved local residents over £1million in energy bills. Huntingdonshire District Councils run free fuel poverty advice and information events – maximising partnership working opportunities. Just like Scarborough Council who have an advice shop and mobile unit that provides face-to-face advice for residents on how to stay warm, reduce their energy bills and their carbon footprint. We now have the Breckland Food Bus, with an established network, and the relatively easy ability to provide advice on fuel, as well as food.
I urge members to vote in support of this motion today so that we can get the production of a Fuel Poverty Action Plan underway and start to address this very serious issue that is impacting, and will continue to impact our residents.