Tens of thousands of people are living in the fuel poverty in the Westcountry, according to a new report which says the Government is not doing enough to tackle the crisis.
The UK Fuel Poverty Monitor, which includes the charity National Energy Action , said the cost of keeping a home warm outstripped the income of a total of 4.5million people.
It says that with so many people having to choose to either heat or eat, the Government should step in and use VAT from energy bills could be used to bring all UK housing occupied by low-income households up to the standard of a new home.
The news comes on the heels of the revelation that the number of people falling behind with their energy bills in the South West had shot up four-fold last year as consumers feel the effects of “crippling” fuel price hikes.
Research showed that the number in arrears to electricity providers is up from 2% to 8% in seven months.
Those unable to keep up with gas payments rose from 2% to 9%, according to the Debt Advisory Centre.
The latest report reveals that the average investment on energy efficiency programmes for low income households in England was just £3.52 per electricity customer.
The UK Fuel Poverty Monitor said the discretion given to energy companies to meet their efficiency targets had led to those technically eligible for assistance either not receiving it because the measures they needed were too costly or they were being asked for a contribution they could not afford.
NEA chief executive Jenny Saunders said: “4.5 million UK households are living in fuel poverty – on low incomes and with unaffordable energy bills.
“The only sustainable way to tackle this problem is to invest in our old and cold housing stock.”
A Department of Energy and Climate Change spokesman said: “The Government is doing everything within its power to help hard-pressed families keep their energy bills down.
“In December, we announced plans that will save customers around £50 on their energy bills, protecting support through the Energy Companies Obligation scheme for vulnerable households, extending the scheme for an extra two years and making an additional £450 million available to make Britain’s homes more energy efficient.
“This is on top of the support already available to vulnerable households through schemes like the Warm Home Discount, whereby well over one million low income pensioners will receive £135 off their bill, and Winter Fuel Payments.
“The Government intends to publish the fuel poverty strategy consultation in the spring which sets out the long-term commitment to tackling fuel poverty.”