The number of households in fuel poverty has risen by one million to 3.5 million, according to the latest progress report on the government’s fuel poverty strategy.
The figures for 2006, which show there were 2.75 million vulnerable households in fuel poverty, were released days before campaigners take the government to court for failing to eradicate fuel poverty.
A judicial review of the government’s likely failure to meet its legal duty to eradicate fuel poverty is due to be heard at the High Court in London next week.
The case is being brought by Help the Aged and Friends of the Earth, which claim the government is on course to fail in its legal duty to end fuel poverty for vulnerable households by 2010. The charities filed the review in April, following the annual report of the government’s independent advisory group, the Fuel Poverty Action Group. This found that the government’s policies had made it “impossible” to meet the 2010 target and predicted 1.3 million households would remain affected.
Following the publication of the latest figures, Help the Aged special adviser Mervyn Kohler said: “Fuel poverty is escalating out of control and the response from government has been completely feeble.”
He said the result this winter would be that “millions of people will be cutting back on food or fuel or both, putting their health in jeopardy and living in misery”.
The government has a legal duty to eradicate fuel poverty for vulnerable households by 2010 and for all households by 2016, under the Warm Homes and Energy Conservation Act 2000. However, the charities claim the government has not developed an action plan to meet the targets, and has failed to set a minimum standard of energy efficiency to be applied to affected households.
The case is due to be heard on 5 and 6 October, and although a judgement could be delivered by Tuesday, it could take up to six weeks.
Help the Aged and CPAG slam government fuel poverty measures