Lyn Brown

Member of Parliament for West Ham

Shameful Fuel Poverty - Feb 2012

Hasn’t it been cold!

I hate leaving home and, when at work, I linger later than necessary, reluctant to face the freezing chill.

When it’s cold, I close my heavy curtains and leave the central heating on for longer, even overnight, if it is particularly icy.

But there are many in Newham, some of whom are sick, some disabled, some elderly, some with small children, who just cannot afford to keep warm at home.

This Government promises dignity, respect and support for people in old age, yet they have cut the Winter Fuel Allowance:  £50 less for over 60s and £100 less for over 80s.

Nowadays, a typical dual fuel bill is £1,345.  Energy bills are one of the biggest costs families face.  Between June and November last year alone, standard tariffs rose by £175.

It’s shameful that fuel poverty is still happening in the 21st Century.

What’s more, it’s a growing problem.  People find it harder and harder to balance their finances.

Last Sunday, a constituent contacted me.  She lives in a two-bedroom flat with her daughter and grandson.  She works as a teaching assistant earning £1,025 a month, of which she pays £201 on utility bills:  nearly 20% of her income.  It leaves her little to survive on.

Consequently, she has surpassed her overdraft limit and is charged daily interest rates.  She doesn’t know how to keep going and is falling ever further into debt.

Her story is all too typical.

Chillingly, this Government will condemn many more to utter destitution.  The vast majority of their public sector and benefits cuts haven’t yet been implemented, meaning many more redundancies and real, pitiless hardship.

It is relentlessly apparent; this Government is completely out of touch.

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