Merton Council lifts more residents out of fuel poverty

As central Government unveiled its £910 million fuel measures last week, Merton Council has been busy making its own investments to lift more of its residents out of fuel poverty.

With a £100,000 cash injection to run the London Warm Zone scheme in Merton, the council has delivered energy saving services to residents over 65 years of age rather than just the statutory 70+ age group. As a result, 182 Merton lofts and 96 properties with cavity walls have been insulated through London Warm Zones since January. Two hundred and fifty-two lofts and another 92 houses with cavity walls are to be insulated through the scheme by Christmas. More homes are scheduled to be surveyed.

Merton council also sets aside up to £75,000 per year to help residents living in council properties to decrease energy consumption and bring down fuel bills.

Merton is already working in partnership with local organisations such as Sustainable Merton and Merton Seniors to fulfil its Affordable Warmth Strategy. This makes use of national schemes including funding from the Mayor of London as well as council resources. The strategy ensures schemes are implemented locally to benefit Merton residents. One such scheme is Warm Front, a grant to allow people on low incomes or on benefits to make energy saving changes to their homes. In Merton, 461 households benefited from energy saving installations through Warm Front in 2007/08 and a further 167 households since April 2008.

Merton Council Cabinet Member for the Environment, Councillor David Simpson said: “We are offering a range of money and energy saving schemes to look after our most vulnerable residents. Knowing how to save energy in the home and how to apply for grants could save many residents hundreds of pounds a year as well as cut down significantly on carbon emissions. Reducing energy consumption is as much about easy lifestyle changes like switching off lights that aren’t needed, turning down heating by one degree and using energy efficient light bulbs, as it is about having solar panels and efficient condensing boilers installed.”

Sustainable Merton’s Tom Walsh said: “The total residential energy bill in Merton is set to climb by over £30 million this year, rising from £72 million to £104 million. That’s over £1,300 per household. This unprecedented hike in fuel prices is being imposed on us and we have to pay it because we are too dependent on imported energy. We as a nation need to be far more energy self sufficient and we want utility companies to divert more of their funds towards making residents’ homes carbon neutral. In partnership with Merton Council we will be approaching the Mayor of London calling for him to champion our cause. Other activity planned includes working with local voluntary organisations, faith groups and sports clubs to encourage residents to take ownership of their own energy saving campaigns. When it comes to cutting down on energy, people action is the strongest force for change.”