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Treasury slammed following 9,000 cold home deaths

The Treasury was strongly criticised this week after a Panorama investigation revealed that over 9,000 people in England and Wales died from living in cold homes last winter.

The Panorama programme, ‘Too Poor to Stay Warm’, broadcast on Monday, cited research by academics at UCL which shows that a fifth of the 43,900 Excess Winter Deaths in Winter 2014/15 were due to people living in cold homes.

Yet Government support for energy efficiency has crashed by 80%. Making homes energy efficient is considered by experts as the only long term solution to fuel poverty, which affects over 4 million households in the UK.  The UK has one of the oldest and least energy efficient building stocks in Europe.

In our own research published earlier this week, also reported in The Guardian, we found that:

  • the number of energy efficiency measures installed in British homes has fallen by 80% since 2012
  • the number of households helped with energy efficiency measures has crashed by 76%
  • investment in home energy efficiency has declined by over 50%

We also found that the very low level of energy efficiency support now on offer is set to continue for the rest of this Parliament. During the last Parliament 5 million households were helped but we estimate that only 1.2 million households will receive energy efficiency measures this Parliament.

The Government axed Warm Front during the last Parliament, and the Green Deal and Green Deal Home Improvement Fund last year.  It also axed the UK’s zero carbon policy for new homes. Only the Energy Company Obligation is left, a levy on energy bills that was slashed in the Spending Review in December 2015.

A major alliance of 200 organisations and businesses under the Energy Bill Revolution banner is calling on the Government to make home energy efficiency an infrastructure priority. It is the most popular energy solution in the UK today with support across Parliament.

But the Treasury has refused to allocate one penny of the £120bn infrastructure budget to make homes energy efficient, despite the fact energy efficiency is classified as infrastructure by both the International Energy Agency and the European Investment Bank. According to the Government’s own economic data, making homes energy efficient also provides comparable economic returns to other infrastructure projects like roads and railways.

Jenny Holland, Head of Campaigns at ACE, said: “Our research findings are truly shocking. The UK has some of the worst housing stock in Europe, with levels of fuel poverty unheard of in much colder countries like Sweden. And UCL’s findings make clear that our cold homes were responsible for 9,000 avoidable deaths last winter. But Treasury help to upgrade our freezing homes has been slashed to the bone. The Government has pledged to make all fuel poor homes energy efficient by 2030, but without new funding, it will take them 94 years to meet their pledge. This is simply not good enough. By making energy efficiency an infrastructure priority, the Treasury could transform the lives of some of our most vulnerable citizens, making their fuel bills affordable and greatly reducing the risk of cold-related illness.

Ed Matthew, Director of the Energy Bill Revolution alliance said: “The decision by Treasury to decimate energy efficiency support will cost lives. Yet making UK homes energy efficient provides strong economic returns, as much as any other infrastructure project. But Osborne has chosen to invest £50 billion in HS2, £30 billion in road building and not one penny of the infrastructure budget in retrofitting the crumbling UK building stock. Perhaps he thinks there are more votes for the Conservatives by shaving a few minutes off a railway ride than saving the lives of the fuel poor.

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