Cold Homes Week

For the Angel of Death spread his wings on the blast, And breathed in the face of the foe as he pass’d; And the eyes of the sleepers wax’d deadly and chill, And their hearts but once heaved, and for ever grew still!

Has the statue in your town centre suddenly sprouted a brightly coloured scarf? Fear not, gentle reader, for you are neither imagining things, nor going loopy.

The scarves are simply part of the Cold Homes Week, which started yesterday and which aims to highlight to government, MPs and the rest of us the fact that, with energy bills going through the proverbial roof, millions of people in the UK are now in fuel poverty and the situation is getting worse.

Cold Homes Week is being run by the Energy Bill Revolution Alliance, a campaign supported by a huge number of organisations from ACE, Asda and Ikea to Knauf Insulation, Shelter and SIG, Warrington, Barnet and Leicester Councils to npower, Age UK and the WWF.

Today (4th February) there is a reception held in Parliament where scarves will be presented to MPs and photos will be sent to MPs’ local media to help highlight the issue.

The Alliance tells us that there are over 20,000 deaths from cold in the temperate UK each winter, 23% more than in freezing Sweden as a proportion of all deaths. The share of people who cannot afford to heat their homes is four times higher in Britain than Sweden, even though gas there is twice as expensive and winter temperatures regularly plunge as low as -30 degrees centigrade.

Despite the myriad changes to building regulations (when they ever get sorted) we have some of the leakiest, most inefficient houses to heat in Europe.

The campaign wants to force the Government to use the money it raises from carbon taxes on big businesses to improve the energy efficiency of those homes that so badly need it. Those taxes are eventually passed on to the end consumer one way or another anyway, it argues, so why not use the money to do something that will really benefit the populace, the environment and the economy?

A year on and it’s obvious that the Green Deal, laudable in its aims though it might have been, just didn’t garner the support that it needed to in order to solve either the heat-poverty issue or the higher-than-am-comfortable-with energy bills issue.

It needs to be re-thought, that’s clear, and I’ve said before that I’m sure we will see “Son of Green Deal” in some way in the next Parliament. Though whether it will have Greg Barker at the helm by then is another question altogether.

In the meantime though, we still need to keep the pressure up on the Government and to keep the issue of our cold, old homes in the forefront of politicians’ minds.

So pop over to to see what you can do to support Cold Homes Week. You can check whether your local MP is supporting it and email them if not to badger them about it. (Mine isn’t and I have). You can also take a “selfie” and send it in to show your support!!

About Fiona Russell-Horne

Group Managing Editor across the BMJ portfolio.

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