Government is working to help the victims of fuel poverty

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WHEN penning last week’s article I was cheerfully looking forward to Wakehurst Place’s annual carol concert, held last Friday evening.

I was due to attend and, indeed, speak at the event.

Unfortunately, the snow and consequent travel chaos put paid to that and I wasn’t able to take part.

I’m hoping that lots of Horsham residents managed to get over to Ardingly and enjoy the festivities – it would have been a wonderful start to Christmas. I suppose there’s always next year!

On another timely matter, I wanted to alert readers to the issue of fuel poverty and also point those affected in the direction of services that can help.

Fuel poverty is currently defined as the need to spend more than ten per cent of household income in order to provide a warm and healthy living environment and it’s exacerbated by a combination of poor heating and insulation standards, low household income and ever-increasing energy prices.

It’s estimated that over five million UK households are in this predicament and it’s something that the coalition Government is taking very seriously.

In fact, because fuel poverty rose every year during the last Parliament, we are reviewing the issue to see what can be done to address it once and for all.

This is as well as protecting the Winter Fuel Allowance and making permanent the recent increase in Cold Weather Payments.

Household energy inefficiency must also be tackled and our Green Deal will enable energy saving measures to be paid for in instalments via energy bills.

While this issue is under serious and in depth review and changes will be made in the future, already-existing grant programmes and other resources are still available to assist those in need.

Help and advice on staying warm can be obtained from the Home Heat Helpline on 0800 33 66 99; information on possible grants can be obtained from Warm Front on 0800 408 2095 and www.warmfront.co.uk and general advice on how to save energy and money can be obtained from the Energy Saving Trust on 0800 512 012 or www.energysavingtrust.org.uk.

I hope that information proves useful and even if you aren’t directly affected by fuel poverty, you may be able to pass the contact details on to someone who is.

So, this is the last ‘Francis’ Footnote’ before Christmas and I’d like to take this opportunity to wish everyone a very happy Christmas and a very peaceful New Year. Happy Christmas!

FRANCIS MAUDE

MP for Horsham