Fuel poverty on the increase in rural areas

Concern voiced about the growing number of rural households struggling to make ends meet because of the fuel crisis

New data released today shows that 6.3million households in England will wake up in fuel poverty at the beginning of April, up from 4.1million in the same period last year.

Whilst urban areas in Wolverhampton, Leeds and Birmingham top the unwelcome table of households unable to afford to heat their homes to an adequate temperature, rural areas are also being hit hard.

In parts of rural West Norfolk, North East Lincolnshire, Herefordshire and Shropshire about a third of households will experience fuel poverty, as well as in the Chancellor’s own back yard of Richmondshire, Yorkshire.

Responding to the latest revelations, Paul Dixon, Rural Evidence Manager at Action with Communities in Rural England (ACRE) said, “Those on lower incomes in the countryside are some of the most vulnerable to the growing fuel crisis. Rural residents have some of the hardest to heat homes. We are particularly concerned for the one million households who depend on heating oil. Members of the ACRE network that run community oil buying schemes report extreme volatility in the price of this commodity which is estimated to have risen threefold over the past 12 months. People are facing difficult choices between filling up their heating system with oil or putting fuel in their car to get to work. Government must recognise and address the particular vulnerabilities of people in this situation.”

People are facing difficult choices between filling up their heating system with oil or putting fuel in their car to get to work

The charity believes the government can and must do more to help people living in rural areas with the increasing cost of fuel. In a letter sent to the Rt Hon Kwasi Kwarteng MP, Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, it says government must account for specific characteristics of the fuel crisis in the countryside when developing measures to support vulnerable households.

The letter outlines a triple whammy of costs faced by rural households, namely; older and harder to heat housing stock, dependency on frequent travel to urban centres and financial pressures on various services that may compound experiences of poverty and isolation in the long run.

ACRE is a member of the End Fuel Poverty Coalition which released the updated fuel poverty statistics. Simon Francis who co-ordinates the coalition said, “Many people across rural England will wake up on 1 April in fuel poverty for the first time. Rural properties have long been the forgotten victims of rising energy costs and poorly insulated properties. It has got to the stage now, that it is only by concerted effort by the Government that we will be able to see the immediate support for struggling households combined with support for energy efficiency improvements.

People who are struggling in fuel poverty should reach out to their MPs to explain the situation they find themselves in – and contact their energy supplier and Citizens Advice for personal support.”

Notes to editors

Media contact: Phillip Vincent, p.vincent@acre.org.uk 01285 425645

ACRE (Action with Communities in Rural England) is a national charity speaking up for and supporting rural communities. It is the national body of the ACRE Network, England’s largest rural grouping of county-based local development charities which together reach over 35,000 community groups annually, and lever in over £34 million each year in support of rural communities.