Thousands of families across Preston are living in fuel poverty, it has been revealed.
The city council is set to share out nearly £70,000 to help keep dozens of homes warm, as almost one in seven struggle to make ends meet.
Latest figures have shown that 13 per cent of Preston households – 7,400 in total – are still classed as being fuel poor, in that they spend more than 10 per cent of their income on fuel use.
People can be forced to choose between heating their homes and buying meals, with many of all ages turning to food banks in desperation.
“Every week I’m going cold or hungry. I often have to make a choice about whether I eat or go cold, and more often than not I go cold.”
These are the experiences of 60-year-old Jim Keane who, like the 7,400 people in fuel poverty across Preston, struggles to make ends meet.
Jim, a technician by trade, worked from leaving school in 1969 until last year when his last contract ran out. He is now unemployed, and has since had problems claiming benefits.
He said: “I run out of gas very quickly, I run out of electricity very quickly.
“I’ve had no gas for the last two or three weeks and I’m running on emergency credit on the electricity.
“Within a few days of my money coming through, I’m having to borrow from here, there and everywhere and have to pay it back, so after about three days I’m back on the emergency credit.”
Jim, who lives in Ingol and volunteers at Intact, said he turned to food banks for help. He said: “I keep selling stuff off, I’ve had to sell a lot of porcelain bits and some pictures, just to keep going and try to have a steady, normal life.”
Preston Council has accepted a grant from Lancashire County Council of £69,994 to put in place “affordable warmth interventions”.
A report to Coun Martyn Rawlinson said the fund aimed to service or repair the boilers or heating systems of 150 older people, and provide shopping and advice to a further 150 people. At least 90 households are expected to have a boiler replaced. It said the scheme would help to reduce the “significant number” of excess winter deaths in the city.
Coun Rawlinson, cabinet member for resources, said fuel poverty affected low-income families, but said households with poor quality doors, windows and boilers also suffered. He said: “It is welcome because even now, we have done an awful lot over the years, and energy companies have done quite a lot too, but it still seems to be scratching the surface. There is so much older housing that’s not up to date in terms of energy efficiency.”
Father Timothy Lipscomb, vicar of Preston, said he was glad of the funding, but unsurprised at the numbers living in fuel poverty. He said he was worried about the elderly, adding: “I am just hopeful it (the funding) will alleviate their suffering and they may be able to be a bit more comfortable.”