Energy crisis: data shows Lewisham worst borough in inner London for fuel poverty

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The rapid rise in costs of gas and electricity in the UK, caused largely by energy supply shortages, means that more households are facing fuel poverty.

The latest data published by Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy, which covers the year 2020, shows that the ELL boroughs of Lewisham, Croydon, Hackney and Tower Hamlets are all above the London average rate of 10.9 per cent of households living with fuel poverty. 

With 14.1 per cent of households living with fuel poverty – an increase of over 2000 households since the previous data release – Lewisham takes on the position of the worst borough within inner London and the fourth worst when compared to all London boroughs.

Although data has not yet been released for 2021 or 2022, recent fuel price rises have only increased pressure on struggling households.

Dr Giovanna Speciale, CEO of South East London Community Energy [SELCE], said: “We are seeing a tragedy unfold, low-income households are being squeezed. They are having to economise on all those things that most of us take for granted – a warm home, hot water and electricity for appliances.”

Hojee Man, CELCE Energy Advisor and PRS Project Officer told ELL: “It’s really picked up since October – there has been pretty much just a rush of a lot of people phoning us up asking ‘how do I manage this?’”.

“There are a lot of people that have told us that they are running out of money as soon as they put it on the pre-paid meter – in a day or two it’s all gone. That’s how dire it can be for some.”

A household is defined as being in fuel poverty if it is rated ‘D’ or worse for energy efficiency and if its disposable income (the remaining income after housing and energy costs are paid) is below the poverty line - which is 60 per cent of the national median income.

Analysis of energy efficiency ratings by the Office of National Statistics have revealed that just under 50% of houses in Lewisham had a ranking of "D" or below as of March 2021 – this means it is very likely that the borough will continue being severely impacted by fuel poverty. 

Janet Daby, Labour & Co-op MP for Lewisham East, raised the matter to new Prime Minister Rishi Sunak this week at parliament demanding for answers: “My inbox has been full of emails from constituents of Lewisham writing to me about their desperate situation of their wages simply not going far enough,” she said. “I’m also receiving emails about rents going up, energy bills going up and of course the cost of living is already up.”

In August 2022, Ofgem announced its energy price cap would increase to £3,549 per year from October 2022, with the cap set to rise again in January 2023.

The size of the January increase has not yet been announced, but it is expected to take bills to £4,200 per year - with some sources predicting even larger numbers.

The government has announced some measures to help struggling households, but critics have pointed out that the government's biggest policy – a £400 rebate being offered to all households – will only reduce bills by £15.38 per week between this month and April 2023.

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