Govt unveils fuel poor help plans

A series of measures to help those living in fuel poverty has been announced by the government, following a week of pressure about rising energy costs.

Its announcement comes as energy regulator Ofgem calls on the government to target homes classified as suffering from fuel poverty because more than ten per cent of their income goes on gas and electricity bills.

Among the measures announced by the government are £150,000 to fund Ofgem's Citizens Advice Bureau and £3 million to fund a low carbon buildings programme pilot scheme.

The government has also secured an additional £225 million from energy firms for social assistance purposes, increasing their investment by £150 million a year to 2011.

Environment minister Phil Woolas said energy efficiency was "crucial" as a way of cutting costs and that the government would continue to push the best ways to achieve this.

"Household bills are rising and purse strings are tightening," he said.

"Fuel poverty isn't just a winter issue - it's about working all year round to improve the homes of some of the most vulnerable people in this country, and that's something the government is determined to do."

Kate Jopling, head of public affairs at older person's charity Help the Aged, said the government's announcements did not go "nearly far enough" to deal with what she described as a "looming fuel poverty crisis".

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