The Labour Government has set itself a legal requirement to end fuel poverty in England as far as practically possible by 2016. I fully support this commitment and am doing all I can to help this become a reality.
Due to rises in recent energy prices, there is no doubt that this challenge has become harder. Since 2000 the Government has spent £20 billion on benefits and programmes to tackle fuel poverty by improving home energy efficiency, ensuring competitive energy prices and raising real incomes. These measures helped lower fuel poverty by an estimated 400,000-800,000 households in 2008.
Locally I have been working hard to help families in Stoke-on-Trent who are struggling to meet their rising energy bills and have consistently raised the issue in Parliament:
I held an Adjournment Debate on housing issues facing Stoke-on-Trent on 6 May 2009. This debate focused wider housing issues in the context of regeneration, but I made the point that new housing developments must not only take into account local circumstances and access to amenities but also be equipped with improved insulation and energy-saving measures. To view the debate please click here
In a Westminster Hall Debate I attended on 6 May 2009 I spoke about improving the energy efficiency of private sector housing and urged for funding to be made available to do so. To view the debate please click here
In an oral question on 20 April 2009 I questioned the Minister about what is the average waiting time for the Warm Front Scheme grants to be completed. To view the question please click here
In an oral question to the Minister at DEFRA on 21 April 2008 I asked what representations the department has received about the Warm Front Scheme, particularly regarding affordability. To view the question please click here
I spoke in a debate on the Warm Front Scheme on 3 March 2008 regarding making the scheme work for the most vulnerable people in society and opening it up to local contractors. To view the debate please click here
A key policy to reduce fuel poverty is the Warm Front
scheme. This scheme provides grants to households to help reduce energy bills through improving energy efficiency, insulation and green energy initiatives. The scheme provides grants of up to £3,500 (or £6,000 if an oil or low carbon alternative is recommended) for help with:
• Loft insulation - Installing two layers of insulation into your loft.
• Draughtproofing - Fitting plastic strips to all windows and outside doors. Doors have plastic strips on the top and the two sides, and a brush on the bottom.
• Cavity-wall insulation - Filling the space between your cavity walls with insulation.
• Hot-water-tank insulation - Checking the insulation around your hot-water tank, and fitting a jacket if necessary.
• Gas, electric or oil central heating - Installing a combination boiler and up to five radiators including all valves and pipework.
• Glass-fronted fire - Converting your solid-fuel open fire to a glass-fronted fire.
• Energy-efficient light bulbs - Every grant will also come with two energy-efficient light bulbs.
To date the scheme has helped more than 8000 households in Stoke-on-Trent who have made savings of £26.17 on average per week.
This has been a great success but a number of constituents highlighted problems with the scheme which I have been working hard to address.
Firstly, it was pointed out that the grant often did not cover the full cost of the work which prevented people from taking advantage of the scheme. I took this issue up with the Minister on a number of occasions and also submitted evidence to a National Audit Office Enquiry into Warm Front. I was therefore delighted that by the recent announcement that the grant is to be increased to £3,500 from its initial £2,700.
There was also concern that local contractors often did not win contracts to provide the insulation and I have been working hard to ensure that this changed scheme can provide opportunities for local businesses and also save people money by using local expertise. 65% of installation contracts will now be auctioned off to ensure people get the lowest possible price and allow for firms to compete in a potentially lucrative market.
You may well be eligible for assistance. For more information and to apply for a grant:
Phone: 0800 316 2805The North Staffordshire Warm Zone
was set up to help eligible households in the area keep their homes warm by providing grants of around £400 towards the cost of loft or wall cavity insulation. This is a tailor-made service for the people of Stoke-on-Trent and Newcastle-under-Lyme. For more information about how to apply please go to:
Phone: 01782 238443
But whilst much good work is being done there remains more to be done. I will continue to do all I can to ensure that fuel poverty remains at the top of the political agenda and that more is done to meet the needs of local people. I will post further progress on my website as and when.