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Budget fails to eradicate fuel poverty

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13/03/2008

The Government has attempted to tackle fuel poverty in the Budget but still has a long way to go before it solves the problem altogether, says uSwitch.com.

The Chancellor announced it would be a Budget of ‘fairness and opportunity’ and some initiatives unveiled will benefit some of Britain’s 4.5 million fuel poor, but the measures could be a case of ‘too little, too late’ for millions of other vulnerable households across the UK.

The Government has finally lifted the ‘five-year freeze’ on the Winter Fuel Allowance for pensioners, increasing it from £200 to £250 for over 60s and from £300 to £400 for the over 80s.  It has also called for lower energy prices for five million customers on pre-payment meters and announced an increase to current spending levels on social tariffs – from £50m to £150m in the period ahead.

The first increase in the Winter Fuel Allowance since 2003 will see nine million pensioner households better off. The news of additional financial support for Britain’s elderly is welcome and will go some way to helping the 27% of pensioner households who are currently in fuel poverty and who are forced to choose between eating or heating.

Ann Robinson, director of consumer policy at uSwitch.com, said: “The Government has attempted to provide a solution to fuel poverty in the Budget. The measures announced are certainly a step in the right direction, but they still fall short by some considerable distance. We already know that patchy, piecemeal attempts to tackle this issue do not work. Any measures introduced need to be long-term, sustainable and easy for the fuel poor to access.

“If the Government is truly commited to eradicating fuel poverty in this country then it needs to work with the industry and regulator to fully understand what the issues are and to determine how best to tackle them. Rather than reinventing the wheel, the Government has finally increased the Winter Fuel Allowance. However, for this to be a sustainable proposition in the future, the increase in benefits should be targeted at the elderly in real need only.”

 

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