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Campaigners demand heating support in Autumn Budget as winter fuel payments at risk

FUEL poverty campaigners have demanded urgent action in the forthcoming Autumn Statement to help people stay warm this winter amid concerns about government changes to energy bill support.

The call came as junior Treasury Minister Gareth Davies said today that Chancellor Jeremy Hunt would not deprive pensioners of winter fuel cash up to £600, following discussions on scrapping support for “wealthier” recipients.

However, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak claimed that the current welfare system was not “sustainable” when asked about government spending plans possibly including a squeeze on benefit payments.

Mr Sunak said he was taking “five long-term decisions” for the economy and public finances.

They would focus on reducing debt, cutting taxes, building sustainable energy, backing British businesses and delivering world-class education.

End Fuel Poverty Coalition said in a statement on X: “Energy bills are going up for all pensioners in the new year and will remain at current highs for at least 15 months.

“Given pensioners are among the worst affected by the health complications of living in cold damp homes, it is not the right time to rush through big changes to the winter fuel payments.”

Coalition co-ordinator Simon Francis told the Morning Star: “Don’t forget, these are the same payments that Rishi Sunak wanted to scrap altogether over the summer, so we are nervous about any government talk of reform.”

“If the UK government thinks that people will be able to get through this winter without more support for their energy bills, then they are mistaken.

“We need to see the Chancellor introduce an emergency energy tariff for vulnerable households and a help-to-repay scheme for those in energy debt.”

Mr Francis highlighted how energy bills this winter will be 79 per cent higher than last year, warning that “record prices are here to stay.”

He said: “The UK government needs to take action to help people stay warm this winter and every winter through increased support for insulation and renewables.

“Failure to avert this cold-homes crisis will lead to pressure on the NHS, a mental health catastrophe and additional winter deaths caused by living in cold, damp homes.”


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