Friday 25 October 2013

Keep our green taxes!

Watching the news about the furious exchanges on green taxes in the Commons, I emailed Tom Wright, CEO of Age UK and acevo member, to check what their position was on the elderly insulation subsidy.

One of the green taxes is geared to the elderly, and is the only subsidised energy efficiency measure in place. Tom said the government musn’t axe it without putting an effective fuel poverty plan in place. And as yet they don't have one!

Fuel poverty campaigners have written to the Prime Minister demanding cross-party action on the "national crisis" of cold homes. They said the UK was second only to Estonia, for people struggling to pay their energy bills, across Europe.

The letter said living rooms should be 21C (70F) and other home areas 18C (65F).

Campaign group Energy Bill Revolution - an alliance of charities including acevo members Age UK and Barnardos - said the biggest problem in the UK was "leaky homes". They called for investment in a domestic insulation programme, since "woeful" levels of insulation have left Britain falling way behind comparable European countries such as Sweden, Germany and the Netherlands.

Campaign director Ed Matthew says:

“Our political leaders are falling over themselves to come up with headline-grabbing ways to cut energy bills, yet they fall woefully short of a true solution to the energy bill crisis. By far the biggest opportunity to cut energy bills is to fully insulate the UK's leaky homes. No other investment can do so much for so many. If the government is serious about solving this crisis, they must make insulating homes the UK's number one infrastructure priority."

Public Health England also set out its advice today, in its Cold Weather Plan for 2013, after four of the big six energy companies announced price rises.

Tom Wright said older people in particular were increasingly anxious about the cost of heating their homes. Winter health risks range from flu to falls - but the cold can also make heart and respiratory problems much worse. On average there are about 24,000 excess winter deaths in England each year, many of which experts say are preventable.

This new PHE plan has been produced in collaboration with the Department of Health, NHS England and the Local Government Association. It contains advice for the NHS and local government, as well as individuals. This includes having your flu vaccination if you are in an at-risk group (I'm having mine tomorrow!) , ensuring homes are properly insulated and making sure heating systems are routinely checked.

From November, the Met Office will issue cold weather alerts if the temperature dips to 2C (35F) or less, or if there is severe winter weather such as heavy snow or widespread ice.

So let's hope the Government listen. It would be a disgrace if getting rid of green taxes meant that the insulation subsidy was dropped.

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