Rural areas need fuel help - MP

EAST Devon MP Hugo Swire has called on the Government to do more to help householders struggling to pay their oil, gas and electricity bills.

EAST Devon MP Hugo Swire has called on the Government to do more to help householders struggling to pay their oil, gas and electricity bills.Mr Swire said the number of 'fuel poor' households has doubled since 2003, a particular problem in East Devon.But the Government's Warm Front grant, aimed at making rural homes more energy efficient, is not getting to those who need it most.The grant provides insulation and heating up-grades up to the value of �3,500 - �6,000 for oil central heating.But, because many homes in East Devon are not on mains gas and the problems with cavity-wall insulation in older properties, many rural residents lose out on the grant.Mr Swire challenged the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, Ed Miliband, this week, in the House of Commons.He said: "The reason why there was no mention of fuel poverty in the Budget is that the Centre for Sustainable Energy estimates that fuel poverty has 'at the very least' doubled since 2003. "My constituency is in Devon, where 21 wards, including Exmouth Littleham Urban, fall within the worst 21 per cent of wards in England. "However, the real problem lies outside the main town centres and urban areas; it is to be found in the rural areas, where Warm Front is less effective because of the lack of accessibility to gas boilers and the problems with cavity-wall insulation. "Those things are so typical of the kind of houses that exist in rural areas in my constituency. "What can the Secretary of State do to help the 'disguised' fuel poverty in rural areas resulting from Warm Front's failing and can it be addressed urgently?"Mr Miliband said: "On his first point, as I said, fuel poverty has increased because energy prices have increased, but since 2002, some five million houses have been insulated under our programmes. ".... (But) he is right to say that people off the gas grid face particular challenges. "I think that he will see from this morning's announcements that the non-standard grant level has also been increased. "I hope that that will help people who are facing the circumstances that he describes. I also hope that if he has further concerns following the announcement, he will take them up with the Minister in charge of Warm Front."l Hugo Swire can be contacted at: The House of Commons, London. SW1A OAA, tel (0207) 2198173)


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