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"Too many families must choose between heating and eating," says Sefton Central MP

Sefton Central MP Bill Esterson has hit out at the Government over its failure to address fuel poverty as more than 3,000 households in the constituency struggle to pay energy bills.

The MP and shadow business minister said the Conservative Government had failed to protect consumers from rip-off energy prices. He added that a proposed energy price cap, which would allow OFGEM to set a maximum amount that could be charged for a standard variable tariff and was due to be introduced to Parliament today (Monday), did not go far enough.

A total of 3,141 households, 8.7% of the total, in Sefton Central live in fuel poverty. A household is considered to be in fuel poverty when it has higher than typical energy costs that leave the household with an income below the official poverty line.

Mr Esterson said: “Energy costs make up a huge portion of many families’ outgoings and hundreds of families in my constituency alone are making the choice between heating and eating.

“The Government has talked big on tackling this issue but their inaction in addressing it has been shameful. Parliament’s Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee last week called on the Government to bring in the cap immediately and this week finally we are seeing some movement. But the cap that is being proposed doesn’t go far enough, and the Government has been dragging its feet.

“Increases in energy bills since 2010 have left household hundreds of pounds worse off and the majority of vulnerable consumers remain on the most expensive tariffs.”

Rebecca Long Bailey MP, Shadow Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy recently announced that a Labour Goverment would take a price cap further, saying: “The next Labour government will introduce an emergency price cap ensuring that the average bill remains below £1,000 per year, while we transition to a fairer system for bill payers. We will also insulate four million houses as an infrastructure priority to help those who suffer in cold homes each winter.”

Sefton Council runs an Affordable Warmth Scheme helping residents to access help when they cannot afford to pay their energy bills. It receives around 1,000 calls a year but receives no direct funding. The help they give is often signposting, ensuring residents are on the lowest tariff and receiving all the benefits they are entitled to.

Mr Esterson added: “Local authorities are in a difficult situation trying to help people on a shoestring. Labour’s energy policy would include an immediate emergency price cap to ensure that the average dual-fuel household energy bill remained below £1,000 per year, while implementing a transition to a fairer system for bill payers.

“We would ensure the security of the energy supply while also meeting our climate change targets and transitioning to a low-carbon economy.”

Labour has pledged to eradicate fuel poverty and invest in a publicly owned energy supplier. They say their promise to insulate four million homes will cut bills, reduce emissions, improve health and reduce winter deaths.

The National Energy Action (NEA) report, "Bridging the Gap", last year predicted that more than 1 million fuel-poor families in England would not have the cash to meet basic living expenses this winter, and that some families were facing an income shortfall of up to £9,331 per year (£778 per month) to cover basic essentials, including energy.

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