Council chiefs backed new strategy aimed at tackling fuel poverty in South Tyneside

Council chiefs have unanimously backed a new strategy aimed at tackling fuel poverty, which figures show affects thousands of residents in South Tyneside.

South Tyneside Council officers reported around 9,700 households in the borough, equating to around 14 per cent, are estimated to be living in fuel poverty, which is slightly higher than the national average.

However, these statistics are based on research carried out before the costs-of-living crisis and spiralling inflation, meaning the true figure is likely now higher.

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The latest meeting of the council’s leading cabinet approved pushing forward with a new fuel poverty strategy, which aims to use a partnership approach to help support residents.

It will also seek to tackle the three main causes of fuel poverty – low household income, the energy efficiency standard of a home and energy costs.

Councillor Paul Dean, lead member for the voluntary sector, partnerships and equalities, speaking at Wednesday’s (September 6) meeting, said it follows extensive consultation and ongoing work in the area.

He added: “In our commitment to support our most vulnerable residents, this strategy sets out the scale of the challenge and the actions that the council and its partners will undertake to tackle fuel poverty.

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“The strategy forms part of the work that has been undertaken across the council in terms of tackling poverty and working to provide a range of advice and support to those in need.”

A household is considered to be in fuel poverty if it has to spend a high proportion of its income to keep their home at a reasonable temperature.

Support in place will include helping residents to maximise their household’s income, manage their money and reduce excessive bills.

Council chiefs added improving the energy efficiency of homes is the “most cost-effective and long-term solution to tackling fuel poverty”, and also helps reduce carbon emissions, winter deaths and improve health and wellbeing.

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The meeting heard working with public health officers on the issue will be “key”, while the action plans also sets out plans to advise residents on behavioural changes to help cut energy consumption.

Local authority bosses stressed tackling digital exclusion will be a core element of the strategy, together with a proposed reduction in the use of pre-payment meters which are generally more expensive.

They added providing people with the right digital skills and resources will enable them to access cheaper, online tariffs.

The strategy will aim to aid the council to deliver on its ambitions of helping to make residents financially secure, well and healthy throughout their lives and targeting support to make things fairer.