Dunkirk spirit needed to avoid fuel poverty

PUBLISHED: 02:01 06 August 2008 | UPDATED: 22:09 15 June 2010

WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 6: AS British Gas announced a 35 per cent price rise, Honiton Senior Council was calling for local action to protect Honiton residents from fuel poverty. It wants the Warm Zones Campaign to hold a public meeting in the town to set out how people can access

AS British Gas announced a 35 per cent price rise, Honiton Senior Council was calling for local action to protect Honiton residents from fuel poverty.It wants the Warm Zones Campaign to hold a public meeting in the town - to set out how people can access grants and get help towards insulating their homes.Senior council member Tony Simpson, a member of the Child Poverty Action Group, has just returned from Norway where he was astonished to learn how, by harnessing hydro-electric power and using oil and gas revenues, the state has eradicated pensioner poverty."As recent Herald interviews showed, fuel poverty will be a major worry for many people in the Honiton area in the coming months as fuel and the cost of living outstrip household incomes," he said."The biggest increases are on energy costs, with forecasts of average bills of over £1,400. "You need no imagination to anticipate what this will mean to people on incomes of £100 or so a week, including many pensioners. And what about families with young children on low wages, such as those who are dependant on agriculture and the catering trade?"Those on the minimum wage of less than £300-a-week are already suffering high rents and mortgages. They could be paying 30 per cent or more on transport, fuel and foods compared to a year ago, yet wage increases do not even match inflation - as recent strikes in local schools and public services demonstrates."Mr Simpson claims the Government has "virtually admitted it will miss fuel poverty targets it set 10 years ago".Can anything be done to halt fuel poverty?ACCORDING to Tony Simpson, the Government and energy companies have the power to stop people from sliding into fuel poverty."First, end all non-competitive and restrictive practices such as scrapping the premiums on customers with pre-payment meters," he said."Second, social tariffs should be extended to all those who are vulnerable, including the lower income sick, disabled, elderly and families with young children."Means testing should be relaxed to ensure that basic pensions are adequate."Far more generous incentives are needed to save energy and install alternative power sources such as solar, wind and other sustainable home producers."Mr Simpson added: "We, as a country, are rich in hydro, tidal and wind power and we need a much more concerted national effort to harness this in the spirit of Dunkirk."Norway has done it and so can we. Get on with it, Gordon!

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