DATA STORY: Why is understanding about fuel poverty in the Cambridge Sub-region important?

Every year fuel poverty in the UK makes the headlines, for example:

http://www.theguardian.com/big-energy-debate/2014/sep/19/fuel-poverty-no…

http://www.itv.com/news/wales/update/2014-10-20/the-cold-weather-causes-…

Fuel poverty is caused by a combination of fuel costs, poverty and inefficient housing stock, and can have a range of effects including

  • Negative environmental effects from heating inefficient homes.
  • People on low incomes having to choose between heating their homes and other essential costs such as food, rent etc.
  • Negative impacts on mental and physical health
  • Around 2,700 excess winter deaths per year across the country

Local authorities can support people to address fuel poverty by providing information and advice to maximise income, and helping to lower fuel costs by lowering home energy efficiency.

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 at lower super output area. Lower Super Output Areas (LSOAs) are small areas containing about 1,500 residents or 600 households (there are 475 in the sub-region as a whole). The full data set for the country can be accessed here.

The atlas shows estimates for fuel poverty based on two definitions:

  1. The old definition, based on spending more than 10% of household income on fuel poverty.
  2. 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 tends 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 Cambridgeshire Atlas | Fuel Poverty (http://www.cambridgeshireinsight.org.uk/housing/existing-homes/fuel-poverty) 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 sub-region has lower levels of fuel poverty than the country as a whole. 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 2012 for both definitions. Generally the change in definition increases fuel poverty in urban areas and reduces it in more rural areas.

USE AND IMPACT

The data is used in the Strategic Housing Market Assessment as part of the information about housing stock in the sub-region. Because of the health impacts of fuel poverty the data has been presented to the health and well-being board. It may also be of use to organisations such as action on energy to help target areas affected with information about home energy efficiency schemes such as the Green Deal.

Resources

For further information, contact:

Polly Jackson – Senior Research Officer (Housing)

Cambridgeshire Research Group, SH1012, Shire Hall, Cambridge, CB3 0AP.

Tel: 01223715308

Email: polly.jackson@cambridgeshire.gov.uk

Twitter: @polljax (https://twitter.com/polljax) or via @CambsInsight (https://twitter.com/CambsInsight)

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