Islington council warns of deaths over fuel policy

More people could die this winter in Islington as a direct result of government fuel policy, the town hall’s energy chief said in a stark warning this week.

Around 60 people currently die in the borough each winter due to cold weather and there are fears this number may grow.

Cllr Paul Smith, Islington Council’s executive member for environment, sounded the alarm ahead of a meeting tonight (Thursday) in which the council will chew over implications of cuts to winter fuel allowance while energy prices are rocketing.

He also outlined plans for London’s first council-owned energy company, which will be set up in Central Street, Clerkenwell.

Cllr Smith said: “It is no exaggeration to say that the actions of this government could lead to an increase in the number of deaths this winter.

“They are slashing the amount of money elderly people get to pay their fuel bills, at the same time allowing big energy companies to hike prices.

“Thousands of people will be affected by this – it’s completely outrageous.”

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Fuel poverty is defined as when more than 10 per cent of a household’s income is taken up in energy bills. An estimated 25 per cent of people in Islington fall into that category.

Cllr Smith said: “It’s a massive issue and we are tackling fuel poverty as a priority. We are spending money getting people’s homes insulated, and we are going to be the first council in London to start our own publicly-owned energy company. Hopefully it will be ready for next winter.”

The Department for Work and Pensions said that the winter fuels allowance was temporarily raised by the previous government, so it has not been cut, just brought back to the original level.

A spokesman said: “We’re committed to doing all we can to ensure that older people can keep their homes warm in the winter.”

At the Liberal Democrat conference last month, Energy Secretary Chris Huhne outlined measures to give consumers more protection from rising energy prices.

In addition Ofgem, the watchdog for fuel companies, promised a radical overhaul of the retail gas and electricity markets in June, to make things simpler for consumers.