Fuel poverty mapped: regional differences across England

Friends of the Earth calls on the government to introduce a new Windfall Tax on fossil fuel companies currently profiting to fund home insulation and support people in fuel poverty through this difficult winter
  Published:  24 Nov 2021    |      4 minute read
  • New analysis of fuel poverty data highlights disparities across the country: 41% of neighbourhoods in the West Midlands are rated worst for fuel poverty compared to just 1% for the South East region. See new mapping here
  • Newham, Stoke-on-Trent, Barking & Dagenham and Wolverhampton identified as local authorities with highest proportion of neighbourhoods ranking poorly for fuel poverty
  • Research based on government statistics finds people of colour are twice as likely to be living in neighbourhoods with the highest number of fuel poor households

Using government data on fuel poverty levels in England, Friends of the Earth highlights for the first time the glaring disparities that exist across the country’s regions. The West Midlands, Yorkshire and the Humber, and the North East have been identified as the top three regions with the highest proportion of neighbourhoods ranking poorly for fuel poverty, while the South West and South East have been found to have the lowest percentage. In the West Midlands in particular, 41% of neighbourhoods are among those in the worst category for fuel poverty, contrasting starkly to just 1% in the South East region.

As part of this new research, Friends of the Earth has ranked England’s neighbourhoods from A (being the lowest levels of fuel poverty) to E (being the highest levels of fuel poverty). In the worst, E-rated neighbourhoods, accounting for 20% of those in England, the proportion of fuel poor households ranges from 18-44% with an average of 23%.

The latest analysis has identified the local authorities which have the highest number of neighbourhoods scoring poorly for fuel poverty. Newham in London has the most E-rated neighbourhoods in England, accounting for 73% of the borough, followed by Stoke-on-Trent (69%), Barking and Dagenham (68%), and Wolverhampton (65%).

The new findings also reveal that people of colour are twice as likely to be living in fuel poverty as white people, while areas identified by the government as having a high number of residents with disabilities or other health needs are more likely to be rated in the worst category for fuel poverty.

Previous research by the government has shown that there are more than three million people living in fuel poverty across England. Those defined as fuel poor typically experience a combination of low income and poorly insulated homes. The number of people struggling to keep their homes warm is likely to rise next year on the back of surging energy prices, unless the government intervenes as a matter of priority.

Government research has also shown that young people are more likely to live in fuel poverty than older people. 25% of households in the youngest age bracket (16-24) are deemed to be fuel poor, compared to 11% for 60-74-year-olds. It is also more likely to affect people who rent their homes over those who own them. 27% of privately renting households are considered fuel poor, compared to 18% for social housing and 8% for people who own their own homes.

Cold homes are known to have an adverse impact on health and wellbeing. According to The Institute of Health Equity, there is a strong relationship between cold temperatures associated with poorly heated homes and life-limiting health conditions such as cardio-vascular and respiratory diseases.

That’s why Friends of the Earth is calling on the government to bring in a range of policies to end fuel poverty and correct these inequalities, including the immediate introduction of a Windfall Tax on fossil fuel companies which are currently profiting from the high price of oil and gas. This polluter pays measure would provide funding so that the government can increase spending on insulation programmes and offer financial support to help people in fuel poverty through this winter.

Mike Childs, head of research at Friends of the Earth, said:

“Everyone deserves to live in a warm home, no matter where they live, how old they are or what kind of house they live in. But this research paints a stark picture of the many ways fuel poverty discriminates according to race, disability and the places people live. Fuel poverty is the product of poorly insulated homes and soaring energy costs, and is as much a health issue as it is a climate one. “Rapid progress is needed to lift people out of fuel poverty right now. This can be achieved by ensuring every home is well insulated, in the meantime offering greater financial support to those who need it so that no one goes cold this winter.”

Matt Copeland, Head of Policy and Public Affairs at NEA, said:

“It is the litmus test of a fair transition to net zero that fuel poverty is addressed as a priority and this analysis shows that addressing fuel poverty is at the heart of tackling inequalities across the nation. Unfortunately, the gap between the support that is currently available to do this, and what is needed is still unacceptably large. It is crucial that our road to net zero includes the right support for the poorest households to see the benefits – environmental, economic, social and health. If not, they are at risk of being left behind in the cold.”

Ruth London, from Fuel Poverty Action, said:

“Oil corporations, profiting from the high price of fuel, are choosing whether to channel their gains into still further wealth for shareholders, or invest it in still further production of CO2. But millions of UK residents face a different choice: whether to heat their homes or put food on the table. In the UK, even before Covid, around 10,000 people died each year because they could not afford to keep warm. It is past time for a windfall tax on the soaring profits of the world's biggest oil corporations. And past time to reverse the annual, international, flow of hundreds of billions of pounds from the public purse in subsidies to the fossil fuel industry. This money must be used to help relieve the energy crisis faced by people who are struggling to survive.”

ENDS

Notes

  1. About Friends of the Earth: Friends of the Earth is an international community dedicated to the protection of the natural world and the wellbeing of everyone in it. We bring together more than two million people in 75 countries, combining people power all over the world to transform local actions into global impact. For more information visit: https://friendsoftheearth.uk/ follow us at @friends_earth, or like our Facebook page
  2. Friends of the Earth is calling on the government to:
  • Introduce a new tax paid by fossil fuel companies which are making excess profits from current high gas prices, to fund home insulation programmes and additional financial support for fuel poor households
  • Fully fund the Home Upgrade Grant which is £1.4billion short of manifesto promises
  • Fund local authorities to carry out street-by-street insulation programmes
  • Set a requirement for all private-rented homes and social housing to be energy efficient by 2028
  • Extend the Warm Homes Discount Scheme to 3 million more households
  • Establish a Mandatory Accreditation Scheme and Inspection Body for energy efficiency installers

3. The online map can be viewed at https://mapst.ac/foe/fuel-poverty

4. A policy blog with a breakdown of neighbourhood fuel poverty data by region and local authority is available here.

5. A complete list of fuel poverty levels in neighbourhoods by local authority area is available here. The full data set is available to download here

6. Fuel Poverty Action wrote to Alok Sharma, President of COP26, calling on all governments to address windfall profits.