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Fuel poverty gap doubles to £438 in 10 years

Gap between what bills are and what households can afford spikes under new measuring system

People in fuel poverty are now facing a monetary gap of £438 between the price of energy bills and what they can actually afford to pay, new research has shown.

This figure stands at almost £200 more than it did 10 years ago, according to the new system for measuring fuel poverty. The fuel poverty gap previously came to £248.

Across England as a whole, people in fuel poverty were looking at bills totalling some £1.05 billion more than they could afford. This compares to just £606 million in 2003.

Previous fuel poverty measure used 10% rule

According to the previous method of measuring fuel poverty — which considered households paying more than 10% of their income towards bills  — 3.2 million homes were thought to be struggling in 2011.

What’s more, the old system also indicated that the number of households struggling to pay their bills has more than doubled since 2003.

In comparison, the new system shows just under 2.4 million households in England were being classed as in fuel poverty in 2011. While this is a smaller figure, the government underlined that it will better serve the poorest homes in the country.

The new measure suggests that the number of people in fuel poverty has stayed roughly constant over the past 10 years, with around 11% of households finding it difficult to heat their homes during the decade.

However, this reading of the statistics did highlight the rapidly increasing gap between what people can afford to pay and the cost of their fuel bills.

Michael Fallon: New definition will help poorest

Energy minister Michael Fallon commented: “This new, better targeted definition will help get support to the most vulnerable in society.

“Two million households received cuts to their bills last winter under the Warm Homes Discount, and the budget will continue to increase each year, up to £320 million for 2015/16.”

He added that the government is pressing the big six to ensure the poorest households are not stuck on pricey tariffs, and to simplify their rates and make the switching process easier.

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