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Last Updated: Monday, 19 March 2007, 17:37 GMT
Fuel poverty 'claims 1.7m extra'
Woman sitting in front of fire
Three million households spend over 10% of their income on fuel
More than 1.7 million households have become "fuel poor" since 2003 as a result of rising bills, the Energy Efficiency Partnership for Homes said.

Overall three million households spend more than 10% of their income on electricity and gas - the definition of fuel poverty, the group said.

In 2001 the government said it wanted to eradicate fuel poverty by 2016.

But massive increases in energy prices have led to a surge in the number of people struggling to make ends meet.

'Unenviable choice'
For thousands of people, the prospect of a warm and comfortable home is now a luxury that they cannot afford
Nicholas Doyle

The Partnership - a group of 700 industry bodies - said that utility companies and the government have failed to tackle fuel poverty effectively.

Rises of 40% in electricity prices and 61% in gas prices between 2003 and 2006 had pushed an extra 1.73 million households into fuel poverty, it added.

"For thousands of people, the prospect of a warm and comfortable home is now a luxury that they cannot afford," Nicholas Doyle, a spokesman for the partnership said.

"The stark reality is that many people from low-income backgrounds are now faced with the unenviable choice of deciding whether to heat their homes or provide for their family," he added.

The Partnership concluded that 14bn would now have to be spent if the government was to reach its target of eradicating fuel poverty within the next 10 years.

However, of late, energy prices have been falling.

Four out of the UK's six biggest energy providers have recently announced price cuts.

Industry spokeswomen Nicola Bowles told the BBC: "Energy suppliers have voluntarily spent hundreds of millions of pounds on tackling fuel poverty. We are committed to supporting the Government meet its targets."

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