The reality behind Cornwall’s fuel poverty statistics and the need for organisations in Cornwall to work together to protect Cornish communities from the impacts of rising fuel costs was addressed at an event held by CAB Cornwall in conjunction with Community Energy Plus on Wednesday 27th July.
The forum held at Truro Library, titled ‘The True Costs of Keeping Warm This Winter’, was organised by the two Cornish charities to expose the hidden costs of fuel poverty and reveal issues of fuel debt, the cost to the health service and also the problems associated with keeping residential park homes warm.
Truro and Falmouth MP Sarah Newton joined Cornwall councillors and representatives from a range of organisations in Cornwall working with individuals at the greatest risk of fuel poverty to hear about the issues and discuss the realities of protecting Cornish communities from the impacts of rising fuel costs.
With one in five properties in Cornwall spending more than 10 per cent of their income on heating their homes, the event sought to raise awareness of factors which contribute to the highest levels of fuel poverty in the South West. Low income levels, rising energy costs and the high number of households off the main gas network, many of which rely on more expensive forms of heating, together with a significant proportion of ‘hard to treat’ solid wall properties and park homes which are more difficult to insulate, all lead to householders struggling to keep warm and healthy. There was a lively discussion regarding costs to the health service of ‘winter deaths’ with different interpretations of the presented figures.
The findings of CAB Cornwall’s recent report ‘The Costs of Keeping Warm’ and details of Community Energy Plus’ plans for an oil-buying club to help oil users in the county reduce their bills and ensure that their homes are energy efficient was also presented at the forum.
Keen to ensure that the forum was not a talking shop but is action driven, Community Energy Plus’s Fuel Poverty Projects Manager Alec Rice was pleased with the outcomes of the event. Alec said: “We need effective multiple agency working to support our most vulnerable households in Cornwall and this forum provided an excellent starting point for discussion, debate and positive action and I look forward to future meetings”.
Jim McKenzie from Cornwall CAB stated: “We appreciated the positive response from all who attended the forum to issues raised by Citizens Advice and other agencies around minimum energy standards for rented homes to be included in Fuel Bill before it is passed”.
Forum delegates showed unanimous support for CAB Cornwall’s and Community Energy Plus’s work in addressing fuel poverty and further forums are planned to engage partners in the development and delivery of fuel poverty projects.