No more cold homes: Landlords must be ‘forced’ to keep houses energy efficient, MP tells Manchester meeting

The government should use ‘political will’ to force landlords to keep rented accommodation energy efficient to help the ‘fuel poor’, a Hyde MP told a Manchester conference on cold homes last week.

No More Cold Homes, a campaign aiming to combat fuel poverty in Britain, offered people the chance to grill key politicians at the open meeting last week.

Most agreed that energy efficiency is the biggest failure of recent governments, while poorly insulated and draughty buildings have seen British houses dubbed the ‘leakiest’ in Europe and as a country we waste £6billion every year heating our homes.

Jonathan Reynolds MP, Shadow Secretary for Energy and Climate Change, faced questions on landlords who had no incentive to make homes more energy efficient, meaning tenants faced a choice between eating and heating.

Mr Reynolds, MP for Hyde and Stalybridge, promoted equal focus on energy efficiency and renewable energy in government policy.  

He said: “There is huge concern about energy bills and the case for using less energy is vital. 

“Behaviour is crucial, we have to show people to make them aware and change, to make them aware of different consumption levels in their home.

 “But the way to tackle fuel poverty is about prevention as well as helping people in trouble right now.”

Joining Mr Reynolds on the panel was Liberal Democrat MEP Chris Davies, Energy Bill Revolution’s Ed Matthews and Jennifer Gregory from charity Age Concern ready to answer questions.

Organised by the Energy Bill Revolution group and hosted by Friends of the Earth, people from across Manchester filled the audience at the Mechanics Institute to discuss rising fuel bills and the increasing number of ‘fuel poor’ households.

With no sign that fuel prices will come down any time soon and the numbers of those living in fuel poverty rising year-on-year, the pertinent issue is one which Mr Matthews, director of Energy Bill Revolution, decries as an ‘embarrassment’ for a developed nation.

Mr Matthews said: “We need a programme that will work and make sure our housing is fit for the 21st century, we need at least £3billion spent on improving energy efficiency in our homes.

“The government has set aside a £200billion budget for infrastructure spending, but none of this has been allocated to improving energy efficiency. Surely there must be money spare to help the worst cost of living crisis we are having today.”

His organisation are lobbying for governments to focus on energy efficiency, arguing it would help lower fuel bills, reduce carbon emissions and create almost 200,000 jobs.

Mr Davies, MEP for the North West since 1999, agreed that more needs to be done to tackle the problem.

“We can sometimes get distracted by political parties when we look at these issues,” he said. “What we shouldn’t do is lecture people on what to do in their own homes, governments must do more.”

British politicians often focus renewable energy sources, whereas governments across Europe lessen the need for energy in the first place by combining investment in renewable energy with energy efficiency, ensuring their buildings are ‘watertight’ in terms of heat-loss.

But this approach seems to be a strangely alien concept to British governments, who commit nothing to combat inefficient housing from the £4billion they receive in ‘green’ taxes each year.

The issue is such that approximately 7,800 people in Britain die each year as a result of living in cold homes, with an estimated 6.59million households considered to be in ‘fuel poverty’ at the start of 2014, up 13% from the beginning of 2013 and 49% higher than in 2011.

Sitting in the audience was Chris, from Salford, who said: “These are real issues to us because we need to keep warm and we just can’t afford to. These aren’t statistics to us these are life and death issues.”

Mr Matthews concluded the discussion, receiving a round of applause, saying: “The economic argument and the moral argument is there, we need all parties to commit to making homes warmer.

“Minimise the need for energy in first place. People deserve to have their needs fought for, they deserve to have politicians fight their cause.”

For more information about Energy Bill Revolution and their No More Cold Homes campaign visit,

Image courtesy of Ginny, with thanks.

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