Stage is set for cold homes ‘die in’

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Campaigners will stage a number of ‘die ins’ in Huddersfield town centre on Saturday 19th January to raise awareness of fuel poverty and put pressure on local politicians to solve the problem.

The event is promoting the ‘Energy Bill Revolution’ campaign which has been created by a coalition of many different groups including Age UK, the Cooperative, ASDA supermarket, IKEA, the British Heart Foundation, the TUC, the WWF and Stop Climate Chaos. The campaign is for the government to use the money it gets from carbon taxes to help make homes super-energy efficient – with excellent insulation, renewable energy and modern boilers.

1 in 4 households in the UK are now in fuel poverty, meaning they need to spend more than 10% of their income on keeping their homes warm. The problem is likely to get worse, with 1 in 3 households projected to be in fuel poverty by 2016.

The main reasons for this crisis are that gas, oil and coal prices are high, and the UK’s homes are some of the most energy inefficient in Europe – leaking heat from their doors, walls and windows. This means they cost much more than they should to heat and power, and they contribute to climate change too.

Cold homes are damaging the health of vulnerable members of society, including children, older people and people with disabilities. Diseases such as asthma are made worse, and people are more likely to have strokes and heart attacks. Illnesses caused by cold homes cost the NHS nearly one billion pounds each year.

On average, at least 7,800 people die every year from living in cold homes – more than four times the number of people who die on British roads.

Members of the public can sign the petition at www.energybillrevolution.org. They can also contact their local MP to ask them to support Early Day Motion 47 which is calling for the use of carbon taxes to deal with fuel-poor houses.

Over 150 MPs have already signed up to EDM 47. Local campaigners praised Kirklees MPs Barry Sheerman and Mike Wood for supporting it. Batley and Spen MP Mike Wood said: “Energy bills are the source of a great deal of financial hardship for people, few if any manage to escape the arbitrary rises that we as consumers are forced to endure numerous times a year.

“Fuel poverty is a scourge on modern life and I fully support the aims of this campaign and will continue to everything I can to press the government to do more to tackle this issue, particularly in respect of improving the quality and energy efficiency of people’s homes.”

However, Colne Valley MP Jason McCartney has not agreed to sign it. When he was contacted by constituents, Jason McCartney said that he was concerned about fuel poverty but did not agree with supporting Early Day Motions. He drew campaigners’ attention to the Government’s National Energy Efficiency Strategy, the way that the Green Deal will provide finance for individuals to make energy efficiency improvements and the Warm Homes Discount scheme.

These provisions are flawed.

The Green Deal will not help the fuel-poor. It is a loan scheme designed to reduce the fuel you need to use (and so your fuel bills) and then use the savings to repay a loan. It is intended to get round the problem of the upfront costs of improving energy efficiency. However it doesn’t work in fuel-poor households.

The problem with people in fuel poverty is the amount of heat they put into their homes is limited by the money they have. So if you insulate a fuel-poor household, they may end up using exactly the same amount of fuel as they do now – the only difference is that the heat would be kept in the house and they would be warm and comfortable, instead of it leaking through roofs/walls/windows and them being cold (and possibly ill).

If a household doesn’t make any savings, the loan repayments come on top of a fuel bill that has not reduced. As well as leaving the household worse off, this will be terrible publicity for the Government scheme.

The Warm Homes Discount and Cold Weather Payments subsidise energy bills – which is important when people are suffering because they cannot afford them, but it is not a long-term solution. You only need to insulate a house once – if you don’t, you have to subsidise fuel bills year after year. Furthermore, insulating a house creates work and helps the economy whereas subsidising a fuel bill doesn’t.

Tim Padmore from Kirklees Campaign Against Climate Change says, “Jason McCartney’s position on signing Early Day Motions in Parliament is irrelevant. The Energy Bill Revolution team are happy for him not to sign the EDM but to make a public statement supporting the idea of recycling carbon taxes to make homes super energy efficient but he has failed to do so.

Jason McCartney has said he is very concerned about the issue but when asked to make clear commitments to specific measures in law to address the problem, he has failed to do so. This is disappointing and raises questions about Jason McCartney’s understanding of, and commitment to climate change and social justice issues.”

The campaigners who will be wrapped in blankets and armed with water bottles will stage their die-in at various locations from 12pm to 1pm. Prior to this, from 10am -12pm Kirklees Campaign Against Climate Change will hold a stall in Market Place where they will be collecting signatures for the Energy Bill Revolution petition and collecting signatures to support Friends of the Earth’s campaign for Clean British Energy.

For further information, contact kirkleesccc@hotmail.co.uk by 4 p.m. Friday 18th January.

 

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