Unite, Britain’s biggest union, says the government’s energy policies, including the latest move to manipulate official figures on fuel poverty puts the ‘con into the Con-Dem government’.
The government is changing the definition of the key poverty indicator, reducing the number of households in England counted as’ fuel poor’ from 3.2 million to 2.4 million.
But the government’s energy con goes even further as its plans to make changes to energy bills still mean price rises for hard-pressed families. Over the last six months independent research for Unite found that for a quarter of people the biggest rise in the cost of essentials has been energy bills with half of that group in fuel poverty, because 10 per cent or more of their monthly outgoings went on gas and electricity.
Unite general secretary Len McCluskey said: “The government’s energy policy puts the con into the Con-Dem government. Rather than acting to end fuel poverty which the government committed to do, it is making the problem worse. By a few devious taps on a keyboard the government is moving the goal posts making close to a million households struggling with fuel poverty invisible.
“To make matters even worse energy bills are still due to rise this winter despite government claims to be acting to rein in energy price rises. There is a cost of living crisis, more households will be pushed into real fuel poverty but all the government can do is cook the books and tinker at the edges while Britain shivers. Labour has committed to a real cap on energy bills but the Tories are too weak to stand up to the big energy companies.”
Currently, fuel poverty refers to households that need to spend more than 10 per cent of their income on fuel to maintain an adequate level of warmth. But under the new definition in the government’s forthcoming energy bill which could be passed before Christmas, the definition will apply just to households that need to spend more than average on fuel to keep warm. The new definition will move about 800,000 households out of the government definition of fuel poverty as many poor households are smaller than average and cost less than average to heat.
Contact: Ciaran Naidoo on 07768 931 315
Twitter: @unitetheunion Facebook: unitetheunion1 Web: unitetheunion.org
Notes to editors
- Unite is Britain and Ireland’s largest trade union with over 1.4 million members working across all sectors of the economy. The general secretary is Len McCluskey.