Why is understanding fuel poverty important?
Every year, fuel poverty in the UK makes headlines, for example:
Cold homes caused 9,000 deaths last winter, study suggests http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-35862763
Number of households in fuel poverty rises to 2.38m http://home.bt.com/news/uk-news/number-of-households-in-fuel-poverty-rises-to-238m-11364070914599
Fuel poverty is caused by a combination of fuel costs, poverty and inefficient housing stock, and can have a range of effects including:
- Excess winter deaths occurring every year across the country
- Negative impacts on mental and physical health
- People on low incomes having to choose between heating their homes and other essential costs such as food, rent etc.
- Negative environmental effects from heating inefficient homes.
Local authorities can support people to address fuel poverty by providing information and advice to maximise income, and by helping to lower fuel costs by lowering home energy efficiency.
In August 2016 we updated our fuel poverty atlas to reflect the latest data available.
What data does the “Cambridgeshire Atlas: Fuel Poverty in the Cambridge Sub-Region” use?
The atlas uses data from the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) and shows estimates for fuel poverty for Lower Super Output Areas. Lower Super Output Areas (LSOAs) are small areas containing about 1,500 residents or 650 households. There are 475 LSOAs in the Cambridge sub-region as a whole. The DECC data is drawn from the English Housing Survey (EHS).
The atlas shows estimates for fuel poverty based on two definitions:
- The old definition, based on spending more than 10% of household income on fuel poverty.
- A new definition established in 2012, which looks at high fuel costs and low incomes.
The old definition included some very wealthy households in larger homes as in fuel “poverty” and tended to highlight fuel poverty as a rural problem. Based on this definition Fenland was the most fuel poor district in the sub-region, with between 12% and 19% of households in fuel poverty between 2008 and 2012.
The new definition more strongly links fuel poverty to poverty generally. Across the country as a whole, there are just over 771,000 fewer households in fuel poverty based on this definition, so assistance can be more clearly directed to households in need of assistance.
What does the Atlas show?
The atlas shows trends in the number of fuel poor households between 2008 and 2012 for Cambridgeshire and West Suffolk, for both definitions from 2011 onwards, and includes regional and national comparators. It also shows whether the change in definition means an area is more or less fuel poor.
The data shows the Cambridge sub-region has lower levels of fuel poverty than the country as a whole. Cambridge has the highest percentage of fuel poverty in the sub-region (above the national percentage) but this has decreased significantly, from 15.8% of households in fuel poverty in 2011 to 11.3% in 2014.
While much of the news focus in the last few years has focused on increasing costs of living (including increasing energy prices and decreasing/static earnings), the data suggests a decrease in the number of households in fuel poverty between 2011 and 2014 for all districts. However the most recent data shows that fuel poverty has increased slightly in East Cambridgeshire, South Cambridgeshire, Forest Heath and St Edmundsbury between 2013 and 2014. This increase has been more evident in the West Suffolk local authority areas, increasing from 8.2% of West Suffolk households in fuel poverty in 2013 to 9.3% in 2014.
Measures of fuel poverty across the Cambridge Sub-Region are shown in the Cambridgeshire Atlas:
The source fuel poverty data has been published as Cambridgeshire Insight Open Data:
The source data set for the whole country, with notes on methodology and data from previous years, can be accessed on the DECC website:
The 2012 DECC Hills Review, on which the new definition of fuel poverty is based: