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CAB - Funding and responsibility for tackling fuel poverty in England should be devolved to councils

As the latest fuel poverty statistics are published, Citizens Advice is calling for programmes to help the fuel poor in England to be delivered by local authorities rather than energy suppliers.

The number of households in fuel poverty in England in 2013 was estimated at 2.35 million, according to the latest figures released today by the Department for Energy and Climate Change.

With a new government in place, and findings from a major Competitions and Markets Authority (CMA) investigation into the energy industry due soon, the charity says this is an important time for the industry.

Gillian Guy, Chief Executive of Citizens Advice, said: “Today’s figures are a brutal reminder of the scale of fuel poverty.

“Millions of people can’t afford to keep their heating and lights on and this has a devastating impact.

“There is a real opportunity for the Government and the CMA to help those who are failed by the energy market and aren’t benefiting from existing fuel poverty programmes.  

“This is the crucial time to make sure the market is working for all consumers and that those who are struggling are getting the necessary support.”

Two reports published today by Citizens Advice show how government and regulators could help tackle fuel poverty.

In its report, Closer to home, Citizens Advice says giving local councils responsibility and resources for improving fuel poor homes would be more effective in tackling fuel poverty.  Currently it is down to suppliers to deliver energy efficiency programmes.

Nearly £1 billion per year is currently taken out of energy consumers' bills to pay for energy efficiency measures. The report says diverting this funding to councils would be more effective as they better understand the housing in their area and residents' circumstances.

Citizens Advice also says many vulnerable customers are being penalised with higher energy prices.

A second report, Energy tariff options for consumers in vulnerable situations, commissioned from the Centre for Sustainable Energy, assesses potential solutions.   

The report estimates just 12 per cent of the lowest income consumers are on the cheapest tariffs, and that 74 per cent of this group has never switched. This compares with 70 per cent of the highest earners being on the cheapest deals, and just 29 per cent in that group having never switched.

The charity and consumer advocate believes exploring the introduction a backstop tariff, a low-priced option which eligible customers would be transferred to automatically, could help those struggling to afford their bills.

Notes to editors

  1. The Citizens Advice service comprises a network of local bureaux, all of which are independent charities, the Citizens Advice consumer service and national charity Citizens Advice. Together we help people resolve their money, legal and other problems by providing information and advice and by influencing policymakers. For more see the Citizens Advice website.
  2. The advice provided by the Citizens Advice service is free, independent, confidential, and impartial, and available to everyone regardless of race, gender, disability, sexual orientation, religion, age or nationality.
  3. To get advice online or find your local bureau in England and Wales, visit www.citizensadvice.org.uk.
  4. You can get consumer advice from the Citizens Advice consumer service on 03454 04 05 06 or 03454 04 05 05 for Welsh language speakers
  5. Citizens Advice Bureaux in England and Wales advised 2.1 million clients on 6.6 million problems from April 2012 to March 2013. For full 2012/2013 service statistics see our quarterly publication Advice trends
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