Thousands trapped in fuel poverty misery

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THOUSANDS of Wigan families are struggling to heat their homes, shocking new figures reveal.

Almost 13,000 households are classed as living in fuel poverty according to a report from the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC).

Makerfield MP Yvonne Fovargue told the Evening Post that the figures were evidence of a cost of living crisis caused by the Government’s failure to tackle “rip-off energy companies”. Wigan MP Lisa Nandy called the figures “scandalous”.

But Michael Winstanley, chair of Greater Manchester Conservatives, said the Government had made it easier for households to switch energy companies to find the cheapest deal.

Fuel poor status is issued to households that need to spend more than 10 per cent of its income to maintain an adequate standard of warmth, the DECC said.

The figures show that 12,739 households in the borough were fuel poor in 2012, which represents 9.4 per cent of the total homes. The average for the North West is 11.6 per cent.

The number has reduced, however, from the previous year, with the 2011 report showing that 15,056 were categorised as fuel poor, working out at 11.3 per cent.

Ms Fovargue said: “Many of my constituents have written to me worried about their energy bills, and having to make a choice between heating their homes or buying food.

“Thousands of Wigan families are facing a cost of living crisis. David Cameron’s failure to tackle rip-off energy companies has meant that many people are struggling to pay their bills.

“When the price of energy increases energy companies pass this on but when it drops consumers don’t see their bills fall. That’s why I support a freeze on energy prices now and until at least 2017 saving a typical household £120 a year.

“I am calling on the Government to back Labour’s energy price freeze now.”

An adequate standard of warmth is defined as 21 degrees for the main living room and 18 degrees for other occupied rooms, the report added.

Ms Nandy said: “It’s scandalous that over 12,000 Wiganers are struggling to heat their homes. This is situation that millions of families across the UK are facing as bills continue to rise faster than wages while energy companies enjoy huge profits.”

Former Wigan mayor Mr Winstanley said: “The cost of energy is a major factor for many people in Wigan.

“However what they need is practical help to get the best possible deal from their energy supplier rather than costly gimmicks the Labour Party come up with.

“It is quite right that the government is helping to reduce energy bills by scrapping green taxes levied on energy bills which Labour introduced. As soon as Ed Miliband made his (energy freeze) announcement last year all the companies did was increase prices, this led to people in Wigan paying more.”