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CIPHE chief: Budget does little to alleviate fuel poverty fears

Organisation disappointed over failure to fund new initiatives to alleviate fuel poverty on the back of cuts to national boiler replacement scheme

The latest Autumn Budget will do little to address concerns around fuel poverty, despite industry calls for more support for vulnerable individuals and lower income homes to heat their properties, the Chartered Institute of Plumbing & Heating Engineering (CIPHE) has argued.

The government has recently set out broad aims to improve the energy efficiency of the UK’s heating needs through its Clean Growth Strategy with the aim to decarbonise the economy. However, there was no direct mention of schemes or new funds to tackle fuel poverty in last week’s Budget.

CIPHE chief executive Kevin Wellman said he was therefore disappointed about a lack of financial commitment from Philip Hammond to address the issue of fuel poor homes.

“The fuel poor include some of the most vulnerable people in society and it is undeniable that their welfare, safety and health is at risk,” he said. 

“There is no doubt that the most effective way to combat cold home deaths is by making the homes of the fuel poor more energy efficient. The funding cuts we’ve seen to schemes designed to do this are now hitting hard. With a long winter ahead, I fear that too many more lives will be lost before appropriate action is taken.”

Fuel poor homes are defined as properties where 10 per cent of annual income is spent on powering heating systems.

CIPHE has joined a number of organisations including the National Energy Action (NEA) charity to call on the government to use the budget to provide support for more cost-efficient heating systems for lower income individuals.

Tackling these concerns was seen as vital to protect vulnerable households from the cold, as well as potentially meeting broader government obligations for less carbon intensive heating.

The NEA claimed ahead of the budget that the consumer funded Energy Company Obligation (ECO) government scheme has not repaired a single gas boiler since April 2017, citing cuts in its funding.

Peter Smith, NEA policy and research director, said ahead of the budget that there was growing evidence from local authorities and charities about households having to use older, inefficient and potentially unsafe gas appliances. Mr Smith said an estimated one in ten households could not afford to fix or replace such appliances.

He argued that thousands of people including individuals with medical conditions would be facing a winter without effective space heating or hot water.

Mr Smith said, “This is bound to have very negative consequences; causing needless deaths and acute suffering. There is now no government support to repair or replace these heating appliances and current energy supplier-led schemes are not addressing these issues which have increased significantly in recent months.”

He added, “This situation is also scheduled to become more severe in the near future, as engineers visit millions of homes and will have to turn off any unsafe gas appliances as part of the GB-wide smart meter roll-out. Whilst it is welcome that qualified engineers condemn gas appliances that need to be repaired or replaced, one risk to health and safety can be replaced by another.”

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