Not too long ago Owen Paterson recently blamed the badgers for moving the goalposts when asked about the failure to reach the cull target. As we know of course it wasn’t those pesky badgers to blame but nonetheless it seems that Mr Paterson and his colleagues should have great knowledge and experience in moving metaphoric metal rectangular structures as they have been doing it for some time.
The redefinition of the fuel poverty index has been one such example of the Coalition’s passion for goalpost relocation. Currently, a household is defined as fuel poor if it has to spend more than 10% of its income “to maintain an adequate level of warmth.” Essentially, anyone with a £14,000 annual income with the average dual fuel bill costing £1,315 are likely to be touching fuel poverty. Of course, this does not take into account other fuel costs like petrol, costs which are likely to be exacerbated if you are living in a more rural area.
However, under the new definition, any household that has “above average” fuel costs that leave them with “a residual income below the official poverty line” are now deemed to be fuel poor. This will technically mean that 800,000 households are miraculously lifted out of fuel poverty with the previous figure of 3.2 million households lying in fuel poverty now being reduced to 2.4 million.
Fantastic, that was easy wasn’t it? All you had to do was change the definition and hey presto, 25% of households that were previously fuel poor, no longer are!
Now, I don’t want to rain on anyone’s parade but of course there is a catch to the Coalition’s cunning plan and it is this. What this new definition has failed to take into account is that because it only includes households with “above average” fuel costs, it excludes any household that spends less than average on their energy bills. Many poorer households will not spend “above average” on their fuel bills as they will simply be unable to afford to do so. A bizarre Catch 22 situation therefore develops where a family who already cannot afford to properly heat their homes are no longer classed as fuel poor because they can’t afford to meet the obligatory “above average” spend requirements.
You may argue that out of all the nasty and vindictive policies the Coalition have implemented over the past three and a half years the changing of a definition is a fairly minor one. Not so. By redefining what fuel poverty means the Coalition have tried to conceal the huge increase in the number of people living in fuel poverty since 2010. Prices have risen faster than wages for every month but one since the Coalition negotiated their way to power and every single welfare safety net has been slashed or cut entirely which means that now more than ever those most susceptible to fuel poverty need to be supported and accounted for. By wiping people from the statistics completely through their own warped definition of fuel poverty the Coalition is attempting to cover up the heinous effects of their policies.
So everytime the Coalition say are lifting the poor out of fuel poverty or they are targeting new ways of helping the fuel poor don’t believe a word. They will lie and cheat all the way to the election in 2015 and they will not think twice about the hundreds of thousands of people they will leave in poverty because of their policies.
3.2 million people will lie in fuel poverty this winter. The Coalition have forgotten about 800,000 of them. We must not forget.