Weston’s MP has said that a spike in energy prices could not have come at a worse time following the Covid pandemic and has pledged to push for a more affordable energy price cap to help reduce fuel poverty.
As part of its #ThereWithYouThisWinter campaign, the Mercury recently published figures from the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (DBEIS) which shows 10 per cent of Weston residents were in fuel poverty pre-pandemic.
Fuel poverty is defined as being when a household is pushed below the poverty line by housing costs and the energy bills needed to have a warm, well-lit home.
John Penrose said: “Money is tight for everyone after the pandemic, so spiking international gas prices couldn’t have come at a worse time.
“The good news is that there are more job vacancies than ever before, but some people will still need help, which is why the new £500million Household Support Fund is welcome, on top of the Warm Home Discount Scheme, Cold Weather Payment, and Winter Fuel Payment schemes too.”
The Household Support Scheme is a fund available to councils across the country to provide small grants for food, clothing and utilities.
Recently, North Somerset Council’s deputy leader, Cllr Mike Bell, estimated that 13,000 residents across the district would be worse off, and potentially in fuel poverty, due to the end of a £20-a-week Universal Credit uplift on October 6.
There were 5,145 out of 51,059 Weston homes (10.1 per cent) in fuel poverty in the year before the Covid pandemic, the DBEIS is yet to release up-to-date figures.
Mr Penrose added that the energy crisis could also be eased through better-insulated homes and further reductions to the Energy Price Cap, the maximum amount that energy suppliers are permitted to charge per kWh of gas and electricity per year.
He said: “The simplest and greenest route to lower heating bills is to use less gas through better-insulated homes, which is where the Green Homes Grant, Home Upgrade Grants and ratcheting up the energy efficiency ratings of rented housing are all helping.
“But in the short term, the Energy Price Cap is sheltering millions of homes from the worst of the international gas price spike.
“I am arguing it needs an upgrade so it works even better for customers, and I am pushing ministers and regulators to consider an overhaul as soon as possible.”