A quarter of all households in England and Wales have now fallen into fuel poverty following an autumn of steep increases in energy bills and stagnating incomes, the Guardian can reveal.
The dramatic increase in fuel poverty – up from nearly one in five households last year to one in four now – will be highly embarrassing to the government, which has a statutory obligation to eliminate fuel poverty by 2016. It now looks certain to fail to meet its legal duty.
Previous government projections forecast that this year would see 4.1m households in fuel poverty, which is defined as those who have to spend 10% or more of their income to achieve adequate warmth and light.
But these estimates were calculated before the huge prices rises announced last summer by the big six energy suppliers. New calculations, provided to the statutory consumer body Consumer Focus and seen by the Guardian, based on actual bills, show the figure for England alone is now over 5m households.