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Legal challenge over Government’s fuel poverty strategy

mardi 7 octobre 2008 par anik

The Government has been taken to the High Court today to defend its failure to lift vulnerable people out of fuel poverty. The judicial review is being brought by the two charities in the only case of its kind examining fuel poverty policy.

Although the Government is legally bound to do all that is reasonably possible to eradicate fuel poverty for vulnerable households by 2010 [1] and for all households by 2016, five million households [2] in the United Kingdom will struggle to heat and power their homes this winter. Despite the announcement of recent Government measures designed to combat the problem, the equivalent of more than eight million older people think the Government is failing.

Nearly three quarters of older people (73 percent) think the Government is not doing enough to help people with the rising cost of fuel bills, according to research by Help the Aged and Friends of the Earth [3].

This overwhelming public opinion supports the views of Friends of the Earth and Help the Aged who are arguing that the Government has broken the law by not doing everything reasonably practicable to meet its fuel poverty targets. The charities have filed for a judicial review - the legal procedure used to challenge public authorities - and hope that the High Court will order the Government to fulfil its legal commitment.

The case will highlight :

" Government failure to provide a comprehensive and costed plan of action for meeting its targets ;

" Government failure to set a minimum standard of energy efficiency to be applied to affected households ;

" Repeated criticism of the Government from the independent Fuel Poverty Advisory Group ;

" That the Government itself has admitted that targets to reduce and eventually eliminate fuel poverty will be missed.

Friends of the Earth and Help the Aged [4]
are calling on the Government to develop a far more effective and comprehensive programme of domestic energy efficiency to simultaneously end suffering from fuel poverty and tackle climate change.

Friends of the Earth’s Executive Director Andy Atkins said :

"The Government is letting people down by failing on its legal commitment to end the suffering of fuel poverty.

"At the moment, most homes in the UK are simply leaking heat - to solve fuel poverty in the long term, a massive energy efficiency programme is needed. This will keep people warm, cut bills and help meet our targets for tackling climate change."

Mervyn Kohler, Special Adviser for Help the Aged, says :

"It’s not surprising that older people have little faith in the Government’s mediocre attempts to tackle fuel poverty. Though fuel poverty is high on the media and political agendas, Government actions to reduce it fall far short of the crisis it is creating for millions of pensioners and low-income families.

"It is vital that the Government comes up with an effective strategy for tackling fuel poverty. Low income households need crisis payments simply to get through the coming winter, but in the longer term, the energy efficiency of our homes must be improved. The Government has a legal duty to do this."


Friends of the Earth

26-28 Underwood Street

London N1 7JQ

Tel : 020 7490 1555

Fax : 020 7490 0881

Email : info@foe.co.uk

URL : http://www.foe.co.uk

[1The Warm Homes and Energy Conservation Act 2000 and the Government’s Fuel Poverty Strategy require the Government to end fuel poverty for vulnerable households by 2010, and to end fuel poverty for everyone by 2016. Vulnerable households include households containing old people, children and those with disabilities.

[2Energywatch estimates that over 5 million households live in fuel poverty in the UK in 2008. The latest Government figures (released 2 October 2008) for the whole UK are for 2006, when 3.5 million households were in fuel poverty. In 2008 in England alone, the Government estimates that there are 3.5 million households in fuel poverty.

[3ICM interviewed a random sample of 1024 retired people by telephone between 12 - 24 September 2008. Surveys were conducted across the country and the results have been weighted to the profile of all adults. ICM is a member of the British Polling Council and abides by its rules. Further information at http://www.icmresearch.co.uk .

[4Photographs from the joint Friends of the Earth and Help the Aged publicity stunt outside the High Court, taken today (6 October 2008), are available for download at http://www.foe.co.uk/resource/images/fuel_poverty/.


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