Rural dwellers advised on how to cut fuel bills
Westcountry residents living in rural areas are being advised how to conserve energy in order to slash fuel bills.
The Rural Community Action Network (RCAN), Citizens Advice and Age UK have banded together to help households make savings up to £650 a year.
Help is on offer as part of Big Energy Saving Week which runs until Saturday, October 27, with advice sessions at supermarkets, village halls, libraries and market stalls.
Cornwall Rural Community Council (CRCC) is following up the event by holding an Isles of Scilly Health and Wellbeing Fair on November 13. The islands are one of the worst hit areas in the country.
Figures from the Department for Energy and Climate Change show 23.7% of householders on Scilly struggle to pay fuel bills, ranking them amongst the highest 5% of local authorities in England.
The problem is exacerbated by the higher cost of oil currently standing at around 80p a litre – on the mainland prices hover around the 53p mark.
Marita Ward, fuel poverty and mental health manager at Truro-based CRCC said people living in other pockets of the Westcountry face similar battles.
She said: "At the moment we're helping an elderly lady in another part of Cornwall living on her own who is paying £1 for a litre of oil to keep her home warm.
"We find less than half of people we deal with will switch suppliers in order to save money. If people are cold it triggers health problems, such as respiratory conditions and mental health problems including depression."
According to RCAN and CRCC three main factors contribute to fuel poverty in rural communities:
Many homes have solid walls or no loft space so conventional insulation measures can't be used.
Many homes are off the mains gas grid and have to use more expensive heating measures such as heating oil, LPG, coal, night storage heaters and electric fires.
Workers in rural areas earn less than their urban counterparts.
Rural households could make savings by shopping around for cheaper prices or joining an oil buying group.
Nick Chase, director of policy and research at ACRE said: "Proportionally, more rural households are in fuel poverty than the national average. In 2009, around 23% of them were fuel poor compared to 17% of urban households."