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 shows that 6.3 million households in England will wake up in fuel poverty at the beginning of next month, up from 4.1 million 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.

Our national body Action with Communities in Rural England (ACRE) has highlighted that 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 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.”

Here at CCB we run our own small oil club in Berkshire, to help members come together to order oil resulting in lower pence per litre prices as well as working to reduce the number of oil tankers on the road. We were alarmed to see the huge increase that those heating their home via oil were forced to endure last month and though prices have gone down a little recently they remain at a record high with no sign of them significantly decreasing anytime soon.

Recent rices in the price of crude oil

Our Oil Club administrator from OFPS Marion said; “The price of crude oil has risen dramatically over the last month. In February it was $92 and by mid-March that had raised to $124. This has an immediate knock-on effect on what rural households have to pay for heating oil. These are difficult times and I will continue to do whatever I can for our Oil Club members.”

Elsewhere at CCB our Project Co-ordinator Helen is providing telephone support to low-income families from across the county, in both rural and urban settings. Helen has also been able to run as very well received training sessions to front-line workers that support and have relationships with these families. Through our Family Fuel & Water Poverty Project we can provide families in need of support with appropriate advice and guidance on reducing the bills and the funds and grants that are available to them.

Out national body 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.”

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