Government tackling fuel poverty 'regressively'
The government should find less ‘regressive’ ways to fund policies that tackle fuel poverty, a fuel poverty campaigner has warned.
Maria Wardrobe, director of external affairs at the campaign group National Energy Action, said the Treasury could ring-fence extra VAT revenue it gets when energy bills rise to spend on energy efficiency.
‘It’s important we look at less regressive means of delivering these programmes,’ she said at a discussion on who is responsible for addressing fuel poverty at the Chartered Institute of Housing conference in Manchester yesterday.
When the warm front programme that provides grants to install new boilers and efficiency measures comes to an end next year, the Treasury will cease funding for fuel poverty programmes. Instead, they will be exclusively paid for by placing levies on the energy bills of consumers, she noted, largely through the energy company obligation. As vulnerable households in fuel poverty will also have to pay the levies, Ms Wardrobe called this ‘regressive’.
Pippa Reed, policy leader for sustainable energy at the National Housing Federation, agreed: ‘There’s a risk that ECO could be very regressive for low-income households.’
She also criticised the sharp cut in funding for low-income people who struggle to adequately heat their homes, as the energy company obligation is to become the primary means to address fuel poverty.
‘It’s a 50 per cent cut in the help that’s available to low-income households – 50 per cent less funding than was available to low income households in 2009-10,’ said Ms Wardrobe said.