Fuel poverty hits 40% of Dungannon households

SHOCK figures show that 41 percent of households in the Dungannon area have fallen into fuel poverty as energy prices rise and pay freezes.

Worryingly, there has been a 3% rise in the number of affected households since 2006.

Residents are judged to be in fuel poverty if they have to spend more than 10% of their income to pay their energy bills.

Sign up to our daily NorthernIrelandWorld Today newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

The revelation comes as figures show that local families now face the worst squeeze on incomes since records began in the 1950s.

According to figures released by the Northern Ireland Housing Executive, which cover the new merged council area of Dungannon, Cookstown and Magherafelt, the highest rate of fuel poverty was found in households living in older homes, in isolated rural areas, in social housing, and with unemployed family members.

The HE report said the main reasons for the increase in fuel poverty were the generally rising fuel price levels since 2006, and stagnating incomes as a result of rising unemployment and subdued wage increases.

The core of the problem appears to lie in the problem that lower-income households often have relatively higher heating and cooking costs.

Across Northern Ireland, the highest rate of fuel poverty was found in West Belfast (54%), followed by Newry and Down (49%). The lowest rates were found in Lisburn and Castlereagh (38%) and South Belfast (38%).

There was considerable variation in the rate of fuel poverty by fuel used for heating. Households with electric (69%) or solid fuel (63%) central heating were more likely to be fuel poor than households with oil (41%) or mains gas (43%) central heating.

A very high proportion of lone older (83%) households were fuel poor. This was an increase of 21% since 2006.

Sinn Féin MLA Bronwyn McGahan has said that more needs to be done in tackling fuel poverty

Ms. McGahan said: “It is unacceptable that people are now being forced to choose between heating their home or putting food on the table.

“One of the reasons why oil is so expensive in the North of Ireland is the huge tax imposed by the British Government and it is time that they relaxed this tax and made heating oil affordable to people.

“I would also call on people to take extra precautions in securing their oil tanks. Due to the high price of oil unscrupulous thieves are targeting domestic tanks and siphoning off oil costing households hundreds of pounds.”