FACTBOX: British government in court over "fuel poverty"

Tue Oct 7, 2008 10:44am EDT
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(Reuters) - Two campaign groups, Help the Aged and Friends of the Earth, are taking the British government to court this week over what they say is its failure to end "fuel poverty."

In the landmark case at London's High Court, the campaigners are hoping to force a judicial review of the government's policy and highlight the plight of some 25,000 older people in Britain who will die this winter because of the cold.

Following are some facts and figures about fuel poverty in Britain: - A household is deemed to be in "fuel poverty" when it needs to spend more than 10 per cent of its income on fuel in order to heat its home to an adequate temperature.

- The Labour government introduced legislation in 2000, the Warm Homes and Energy Conservation Act, which stated its intention to do everything "reasonably practicable" to end fuel poverty in vulnerable households by 2010 and in all households by 2016.

- Latest government figures show there were 3.5 million households living in fuel poverty in 2006, an increase of one million since 2005.

- Campaigners for the elderly and for the environment estimate that in 2008 there are at least 5 million households in fuel poverty across Britain.

- Some 25,000 people die in Britain each year from cold-related illnesses, according to the Office for National Statistics.

- The government says it has spent some 20 billion pounds on tackling fuel poverty since 2000.

- Lawyers acting for the government in the High Court said that dramatic increases in energy prices -- a factor which they said was "outside the government's direct control" -- have caused "a significant rise in numbers of households in fuel poverty" in recent years.

(Reporting by Kate Kelland. Editing by Mark Trevelyan)