Age UK calls for urgent action on fuel poverty
An estimated 1.5 million elderly people in rural areas are facing a struggle to keep warm because of the rising cost of heating oil, a charity has warned.
Age UK said older people living in areas which are not connected to the gas grid are the ‘forgotten face’ of fuel poverty in Britain.
The charity called for some form of oil price regulation or control and wants the Government to give priority to making elderly people who live off-grid a priority for measures to make homes more energy-efficient.
Around 4.6 million people in England do not have access to mains gas, of whom it is thought that 55 per cent rely on oil from a tank.
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The Fuel Poverty Advisory Group (FPAG) recently estimated that 300,000 more homes were pushed into fuel poverty over Christmas, meaning these spend more than 10 per cent of their incomes on keeping their homes warm.
Some communities are joining forces to form syndicates to buy oil at favourable rates. The Somerset Community Oil Scheme, launched by Somerset Community Council in 2011, is one such scheme. Some have saved around £35 to £40 on a single order of 1,000 litres. Community organisations and businesses are also be able to join the scheme.
Wessex Loans will also be organising interest-free loans to help people top up their heating oil tanks, linking with the Community Council’s scheme. For information, visit www.wessexhil.co.uk/.
The price of oil has fluctuated during the past year, but last month prices were running at 14 per cent higher than the previous December, and 20 per cent more than in the summer.
A spokeswoman for the Federation of Petroleum Suppliers said that a recent Office of Fair Trading investigation into the industry had found that competition was working well and that customer satisfaction was high.
“Consumers get a pretty good deal and, with low margins, there is very little leeway to give them price reductions and still remain viable,” she said.