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From Keighley News, 27th October 2017
Written by Alistair Shand

FUEL poverty in the district is worsening but key schemes to try to combat it are being slashed, it has been revealed. Fifteen per cent of homes across the Bradford district are now classed as being in fuel poverty – the worst figure in Yorkshire and 12th worst in England. The area's many old stone-built houses are particularly hard to keep warm and each year, hundreds more people die during the winter months than at any other time of year.

Yet the annual Warm Homes Healthy People project – which helps vulnerable people through harsh winters – is having council cash pulled from 2019, while a scheme which aimed to make more than 1,000 district homes easier to keep warm this year has had to dramatically scale back its work after hitting funding problems.

Keighley Labour MP John Grogan said the report on fuel poverty in the district made "grim reading".

"In plain language it means nearly one in six families in our great city will have to choose this winter between keeping warm and feeding their kids and themselves," he added.

He called on Chancellor Philip Hammond to provide more funds in the Budget to help councils and voluntary organisations with insulation programmes and energy advice.

Conservative MP Philip Davies, whose Shipley constituency includes Cullingworth and Denholme, claimed it was "excessive green energy taxes" that were pushing up bills.

"It is about time that middle-class environmentalists gave some thought to people who struggle to pay their bills," he added.

"We should be ensuring we get the cheapest energy rather than the greenest energy and that would save money for everyone."

Councillor Kevin Warnes, the deputy chairman of Bradford Council's environment scrutiny committee, said tackling fuel poverty should be far higher up the national agenda.

He added: "It's a social, environmental, economic and health issue, so for all of these reasons I want it to be more of a priority."

Councillor Sarah Ferriby, who oversees environmental issues at the Labour-led council, said: "The difficulty we are having in Bradford is we have a lot of housing stock that hasn’t cavity wall insulation. A lot of properties do not have cavity walls and that makes trying to insulate the homes more difficult."

Cllr Ferriby urged the Government to “re-think” its funding decisions.

She said council officers were working hard on trying to secure more sources of cash.

Fuel poverty is a daily reality for those struggling with debts, low wages or serious health conditions, according to the charities trying to help.

Gareth Thompson, the manager of a Christians Against Poverty debt centre, said he had witnessed many examples of families in fuel poverty through his work.

He said: “I visit people in their homes to help with their debts and I’m finding that the majority of them do tend to be gas, electricity and water bills. A woman last night had a £3,000 electric bill.

“One gentleman had no access to his gas meter and was having estimated bills for quite a while. Then they came and did a meter reading, and he ended up with a bill of just short of £1,000 land in his lap for gas.

“I have seen kids running around with coats on in their house because their family didn’t want to heat their house.

“People say they have to prioritise other things over keeping their homes warm, like eating.”