Fuel poverty set to soar, warns DAWN

THE number of people living in fuel poverty in the North East could rocket, according to a Northumberland-based debt advice service.

The latest Government figures published in July have revealed that more than 20 per cent of households – around 5.5million – were spending more than 10 per cent of their annual income on keeping warm in 2009.

Already-high utility prices are set to soar in the latter half of 2011 – British Gas and Scottish Power recently announced forthcoming price hikes and most energy suppliers are expected to follow suit.

Liz Chadwick, Chief Executive of DAWN Advice, has urged people not to suffer in silence as it looked like even more of the region’s households would face the slide into fuel poverty.

She said: “In the early half of this century, increasing incomes and lower energy costs were helping to reduce the number of people affected by fuel poverty, but the recession, coupled with energy price rises, is reversing that trend with frightening speed.

“If the last two winters are anything to go by, it will be cold and heating a family home could prove incredibly expensive.

“However, people must not panic about paying bills and should seek professional advice if they are struggling to make ends meet. Heating is a necessity, not a luxury, and nobody should be suffering – or shivering – in silence.”