0826 GMT January 21, 2018
National Energy Action (NEA), which obtained the figures from the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), said the drop in official support via the energy company obligation (ECO) threatens the health of low-income households. Peter Smith, NEA’s director of policy, said: “This leaves thousands of people with existing medical conditions facing a winter without any effective space heating or hot water.”
According to theguardian.com, consumers fund the ECO through their energy bills, but its annual budget has been cut from £800 million to £640 million as part of government attempts to reduce bills. The scheme’s spending has been concentrated on replacing a small number of faulty boilers, rather than repairing them.
But the number of replacement boilers being installed through the ECO program has fallen from a high of 85,000 in 2013 to a low of 7,000 between April and June this year. No gas boilers have been repaired since April.
Temperatures in Britain were expected to drop below freezing as autumn turns to winter, with forecasters predicting that a cold spell could last for several weeks.
Dan Jarvis, the Labour MP for Barnsley Central, said the decline in funding for vulnerable households was causing unnecessary hardship. “Sadly I know all too well this is bound to have very negative consequences in my constituency, causing needless winter deaths and acute suffering.”
The lack of support for repairing and replacing boilers has been raised several times in parliament recently, but NEA accused the government of failing to recognize the severity of the problem. NEA said its research showed engineers and local authorities were making daily contact with people who had had their gas appliances condemned but could not afford to fix them because of a lack of official support.
The charity estimated that over the past four years more than £5 billion of public money has been spent treating health problems caused by cold homes. It argued that funds should be spent making vulnerable households warmer and more efficient.
At the recent launch of the government’s clean growth strategy, ministers committed to continuing the ECO scheme until 2028. But it is unclear how much funding it will receive.