Age UK says research has revealed that more than 10 million older people have already cut back on heating in their homes for fear of soaring bills.
Energy prices in the UK last month became the highest in the world.
Caroline Abrahams, Age UK’s charity director, said: “We know that rising energy prices will put nearly a third of older households in fuel poverty this winter, meaning older people in approaching three million homes will be worrying about how to keep warm as temperatures plummet this week.
PRE-PAYMENT meters are forcing people to live in cold and damp homes, more than half of whom have poor health or disabilities, research by campaigners revealed today.
Some 64 per cent of customers on pre-payment meters are vulnerable, even before the predicted cold snap kicks in and increases energy bills, with 51 per cent having health conditions or disabilities, according to the figures collected by YouGov for the Warm This Winter campaign.
More than 10 per cent of customers on those meters have effectively self-disconnected by massively reducing their energy use.
More than 30 per cent of such customers now live in cold damp homes, more than the national average of 19 per cent.
Among the people on pre-payment meters and classified as vulnerable, 14 per cent are disconnecting and 36 per cent now living in a cold, damp home.
Publication of the research coincides with recent reports revealing that energy firms have secured almost 500,000 court warrants to instal pre-payment meters in the homes of customers in debt since the end of the coronavirus lockdown.
Britain will be plunged into an even worse energy crisis in a year’s time without an immediate plan to improve leaky homes and dramatically reduce demand for gas, ministers have been warned.
The UK ranks among the worst in Europe for the energy efficiency of its homes, according to new research outlining an urgent need to reduce the amount of heat being wasted. Experts are warning that while Liz Truss has bought the government time with her £100bn-plus package to cap energy bills, similarly expensive and unsustainable schemes will be needed unless substantial plans are introduced to improve homes and reduce demand.
Experts believe a serious energy-efficiency programme could have a real impact within a year. The institute pointed to Germany as a success story, where grants, low-interest loans, tax rebates and free expert advice have all been used, resulting in high take-up figures.
Last week the UK energy regulator, Ofgem, announced that the energy price cap will rise by 54% in April, pushing up bills for millions of households by £693 per year. On the same day, fossil fuel company Shell reported that its annual profits had quadrupled, largely due to the very same soaring gas prices that are responsible for fuelling recent spikes in inflation.
In other words: not everyone is feeling the pinch of the ‘cost of living’ crisis. As household budgets are squeezed even further, fossil fuel company shareholders are laughing all the way to the bank.
Energy is far from the only sector where one person’s pain is another’s gain. In recent decades, many of our most essential services have become engines of extractive redistribution – taking wealth away from workers and funnelling it upwards to asset owners.
Perhaps the largest expense for many households is housing costs. For much of the past half-century, housing has served two conflicting functions in the economy. On the one hand, housing is a basic need – providing shelter, security and warmth. From this perspective, it is desirable for house prices and rents to stay low to ensure that housing is affordable. On the other hand, housing has become one of the primary vehicles for accumulating wealth. From this perspective, it is desirable for house prices and rents to increase, enabling those who own property to grow their wealth over time. These two roles are in direct conflict with each other: housing can not simultaneously be affordable and lucrative as an investment at the same time, as much as politicians like to pretend otherwise. In recent decades, government policy has sought to promote the latter role at the direct expense of the former – with dire consequences for the millions of households that are locked out of homeownership.
While economists and politicians hail a booming housing market as a sign of wealth creation, in reality it’s one of the most powerful forms of wealth redistribution. When the price of a house goes up, the total productive capacity of the economy is unchanged, because nothing new has been produced: it merely constitutes an increase in the value of an existing asset. While this increases the net wealth of individual homeowners and landlords, for everyone else it often means facing higher rents in the rental market, and having to save for a deposit and pay more interest on larger mortgages. The reality is that the housing ladder is rather like a zero-sum game: the wealth enjoyed by some is mirrored by the deprivation and exclusion of others.
There can be no doubt that the ‘cost of living crisis’ is a real concern. But it is not new, and it is not simply the result of rising gas prices. For decades, British households have been squeezed by a pincer movement of persistently low incomes on the one hand, and extractive business models on the other. Unless urgent action is taken on both fronts, another ‘lost decade’ looks all but inevitable.
Nelson Mandela: The Reluctant Revolutionary is an article about the South African campaign for liberation. It discusses the Apartheid regime and the history of Nelson Mandela, the ANC and anti-apartheid campaigning. It recognises that the ANC leadership was repeatedly a moderating force opposed to radical campaigning while simultaneously claiming that it had organised that same radical campaigning. Recommended.
Firefighters in England and Wales are to launch a fresh wave of strikes in their long-running row with the government over pensions.
Members of the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) will walk out for four hours from 6pm on Friday, and again from the same time on Saturday, with the threat of further action in the new year.
One brigade urged Christmas partygoers to buy takeaway food during the strike rather than try to cook at home if drunk.
FBU members have gone on strike four times in recent months in protest against changes to pensions and their retirement age. The union argues that older firefighters face losing their jobs if they fail fitness tests as part of changes to the pension age from 55 to 60.
The general secretary, Matt Wrack, said: “It’s now been almost two months since the government has been willing to meet us for negotiations despite several invitations from us.
“Until they do, and until they start to actually resolve the dispute, we’ll keep up the pressure for the sake of public safety and our members’ pensions.
Six years ago Britain had the healthiest record among all major developed economies for people shopping around for the cheapest prices, but the country has badly slipped down international league tables. While 21 per cent were changing companies in 2006, just 11.5 per cent have changed this year (including estimates for December). This is partly because the Big Six stopped door-step selling in the second half of 2011 after a series of fines for misleading customers.
The figures will fuel suspicions the Big Six firms, which have all hiked their prices significantly above inflation in recent weeks while announcing huge profits, are taking advantage of the problems people experience in changing provider.
Prime Minister David Cameron has urged customers to switch to better deals – but many find the process difficult and time-consuming.
Income-related benefits such as housing benefit, income support and council tax benefit are to be harder for EU migrants to obtain from Friday as they face a string of 100 questions, including the reasons they were unable to find a job in their home country. They will also be asked about their ability to speak English.
The new 100 questions in the fresh habitual residence test is being rushed out ahead of the transitional controls on Romanians and Bulgarians being lifted on 1 January.
The European Union insists on the free movement of workers within the EU, but the government believes it is legally entitled to ask tougher questions of migrants before they are entitled to make benefit claims.
Job Seekers Allowance (JSA) and Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) sanctions are set to put many Britons in “dire financial conditions,” according to the Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB).
The report [https://skydrive.live.com/view.aspx?resid=CB5ED957FE0B849F!350&app=WordPdf&wdo=2&authkey=!AJTbB-gzwsSCayQ], published in October 2013 by the Manchester CAB on behalf of the Greater Manchester Citizens Advice Bureaux Cluster Group, is an in-depth evaluation of the impact of the sanctions. It describes benefit sanctions as “financial penalties” that are driving people already in devastating financial crisis even further into dire conditions. They raise concerns about the increase in the number of clients they had seen in relation to these sanctions.
Although the majority of the respondents were sanctioned for four weeks, one third had been given 10 week sanctions, with the average duration working out at eight weeks.
Two thirds had been left with no income. Twenty-three percent who had sanctions imposed had children, and 10 percent were lone parents.
Eighty percent of respondents borrowed money from family and friends, 8 percent borrowed from banks and 9 percent from pay day loan companies, which charge astronomical annual percentage rates.
The sanctions described in the CAB report are part of £21.8 billion in welfare cuts being imposed by the Conservative/Liberal government. Last month Prime Minister David Cameron declared that austerity cuts would be made permanent, meaning that escalating numbers of people will join the many already struggling to put food on the table, to find shelter and afford necessities like heating and lighting.
At least 15 people were killed yesterday in central Yemen, when missiles fired from an unmanned US drone slammed into a wedding convoy. Yemeni security officials said the attack took place near the city of Radda, the capital of Bayda province, leaving behind charred bodies and burnt out vehicles.
No names and few details have been released. The CIA and US military, which are responsible for the criminal program of targeted assassinations in Yemen, Pakistan and other countries, have made no statement.
Yemeni security officials have provided conflicting accounts of the attack. “An air strike missed its target and hit a wedding car convoy,” one official told Reuters. “Ten people were killed immediately and another five who were injured died after being admitted to the hospital.” Another five people were injured. No attempt was made to explain what the real target was, or why “a mistake” was made.