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Fuel poverty

Whether a household is in fuel poverty is determined by the interplay of three key factors:

  1. the energy efficiency of the property
  2. the household income
  3. fuel/energy prices

National analysis of fuel poverty data indicates that households in fuel poverty are more likely to occupy large, older houses, and be owner-occupiers and families.[1]

Herefordshire is exposed to a number of risk factors for fuel poverty and excess cold, which are linked to its rurality, including below average earnings; a higher proportion of detached houses (40%) compared to England (23%); a higher proportion (37%) of households not on mains gas grid compared to nationally (15%); and a higher proportion (39%) of houses built pre-1900 than nationally (8%) (such homes can be more expensive and inefficient to heat).

Applying the Government’s ‘low income, low energy efficiency' measure [2], in 2021, the West Midlands had the highest rate of fuel poverty of any English region.  There were 23 local authorities in England with an estimated fuel poverty rate above 18% in 2021, of these, 11 were in the West Midlands, including Herefordshire.  This was before the surge in energy prices following the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

  • Around 19.2% (c.16,300) of households in Herefordshire were in fuel poverty in 2021: a higher proportion than in England (13.1%) and the West Midlands (18.5%) and an increase from 17% (c.14,000 households) in 2020.

Figure 1:  Proportion of households in fuel poverty, 2021.

Chart showing proportion of households in fuel poverty in England, the West Midlands and Herefordshire in 2021.

Source:  Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy, 2022.

In 2019, a report by BRE on behalf of Herefordshire council found that higher concentrations of private sector households in fuel poverty are found in the more rural parts of Herefordshire. There are noticeably lower concentrations around urban areas, particularly around the outskirts of Hereford.  The highest concentrations of fuel poverty (Low Income High Costs definition) in private housing stock are found in the wards of Birch, Old Gore and Golden Valley South.[3]

Figure 2: Thematic map showing the proportions of households in private housing experiencing fuel poverty (low income - high cost definition) across Herefordshire

Heat map showing the density of households in private housing stock xperiencing fuel poverty (Low income - high cost definition) in Herefordshire.

Source:  Herefordshire Integrated Housing Stock Modelling Report, BRE, 2019.

Information about the types of central heating used by households in Herefordshire is included in Housing Census 2021 in Herefordshire (in Related Documents).

Excess cold

Fuel poverty adversely impacts upon health and well-being through associated financial hardship, but also by increasing the risks associated with cold homes.  Excess cold can lead to increased risk of conditions such as respiratory illness, high blood pressure, and hypothermia.  In addition, the physiological effects of exposure to cold room temperatures are well documented and cold homes are known to contribute to excess winter deaths.[4]

  • The 2019 BRE report found that 14,300 Herefordshire homes (17%) were deemed to have an excess cold hazard compared to 3% for England. Excess cold was more likely to affect owner occupied dwellings (20%) than private rented (16%) or social rented (4%) dwellings.

[1]Cutting the cost of keeping warm: A fuel poverty strategy for England, Department of Energy and Climate Change, 2015.

[2]  The ‘Low Income Low Energy Efficiency’ (LILEE) indicator counts a household as fuel-poor if they are living in a property with an energy efficiency rating in band D, E, F or G and their disposable income (income after housing costs and energy needs) is below the relative poverty line (relative poverty being defined as having an income 60 per cent below the median national household income).  Source: Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy, 2022.

[3]  Integrated Dwelling Level Housing Stock Modelling and Database for Herefordshire Council, BRE, 2019.

[4] Cold comfort: The social and environmental determinants of excess winter deaths in England, 1986–1996, Wilkinson P, Landon M, Armstrong B, et al., Joseph Roundtree Foundation, 7 November 2001.