Cambridgeshire has worst region for fuel poverty over 'eating or heating'
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Cambridgeshire is one of the worst hit regions for households in fuel poverty in England – new data shows.
Rising energy costs mean many more residents will struggle this winter.
Fenland was in the top three English regions unable to maintain an adequate standard of warmth in 2019.
The latest data for the area showed that 15.8 per cent of households were fuel poor in 2019, up from 10.8 per cent in 2018.
It put Fenland in third place after the West Midlands and Yorkshire and Humberside – and even above London coming in at fourth.
Huntingdonshire had 11.3 per cent of households that were fuel poor in 2019, coming just behind East Cambridgeshire at 13.7 per cent, and up from 8.4 per cent in 2018.
Households are said to be fuel poor if they spend more than 10 per cent of income on fuel to maintain a warm standard of living.
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This is usually defined as 21 degrees for the main living room and 18 degrees for other occupied rooms.
Fuel costs can also include spending on heating water, lights and appliance usage and cooking costs.
Citizens Advice Rural Cambs (CARC) say they have seen a “sharp rise” in the number of households getting in touch for support with food and energy related costs in recent years.
This rise in conjunction with the onset of winter, the end of Furlough and the loss of the £20 Universal Credit uplift "will push more households into making the choice between eating or heating".
The recent fuel crisis has also seen price hikes for consumers who were not protected by fixed tariffs.
Rural locations across the county also see a higher-than-average household energy efficiency rating on or below Band D.
“We thought it was bad last year, but the spike from the previous year was just phenomenal,” explained Helen Spriggs, deputy chief officer, at CARC.
“The phoneline went off the hook when Covid hit. There were so many people getting in touch who had not had to claim benefits before.
“There was a massive influx of people who were working and were managing finances before, and leading a normal life.
“We are expecting a massive jump in a few weeks' time too – and we know it’s not looking great for people.
“The debt recovery will be starting again and evictions will be taking place along with chasing for rent arrears.”
Helen continued: “It’s just hitting people from all directions, especially with the energy price rises.
“Even people who are working and have reasonable jobs are affected and will struggle to keep warm this winter.
“Fenland is a deprived area anyway, so this will hit the region hard.”
Citizens Advice also works with local foodbanks – handing out thousands of vouchers for families over the past year.
They also offer free, independent and impartial advice to help with budgeting.
“Fuel poverty does not come on its own, there will be other areas where people are struggling too,” Helen said.
“The main thing we do when someone gets in touch is to get background information – if it’s an emergency and no water or heating is on, then we will get that back on as soon as possible.
“We look at what income there is coming in and, sometimes, there may be things like pension credits that people are eligible for but they don’t know.
“We focus on bills and if anything can be reduced.
“It just takes one conversation to know what will be the best route to go down and how we can help.
“The cost of living has gone up and there will be many issues going forward, but help is available.
“There will be people in need of help who have never had to go through anything like this before.”
Contact Citizens Advice Rural Cambs on their adviceline: 0808 278 7807 Monday to Friday 9.30am to 3.30pm.
Visit: https://www.citizensadviceruralcambs.org.uk/contact-us/online-advice-form/ to webchat or www.citizensadvice.org.uk for more support and information.