MP’s horror at fuel poverty families

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A NORTHUMBERLAND MP has spoken out over the horror of local families being forced into fuel poverty.

Figures from the Department for Energy and Climate Change show that the North East has the second highest number of households living with this problem.

With more than 20 per cent of households suffering fuel poverty compared to less than ten per cent in the South East, Hexham MP Guy Opperman, whose constituency includes Ponteland and Stannington, says the issue can no longer be ignored.

“Fuel poverty has risen every year since 2003, estimated now to be around five million families suffering, and the problem is even more acute in rural areas with the rocketing costs of heating oil,” he said.

Mr Opperman has welcomed Government plans for a ‘Green Deal’ due to be fully available from October 2012, which will offer householders and businesses the chance to fund energy efficiency improvements through savings on their energy bills, but warned the time has also come for fuel companies to shoulder some responsibility.

He said: “These price hikes in fuel bills continue to hit households in our area, some that are already struggling to make ends meet.

“Local residents cannot be expected to keep absorbing these energy price increases, which only force more families and especially pensioners into fuel poverty and having to make the dreadful choice between heating and eating.

“Last year the number of deaths linked to the cold weather reached nearly 28,000 in four months, sparking claims that the UK has the highest winter death rate in northern Europe. That number could rocket unless this issue is dealt with.”

He has written to Chris Huhne, the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, to call on more to be done to stop big energy companies forcing further rises on consumers and has launched an investigation into the regulation of heating oil prices.