Prolonged Inaction: B&NES Council’s Belated Stand on Lethal Cold Homes Crisis

5 January 2024


Today, responding to temperatures consistently reaching zero degrees, B&NES has initiated the Severe Weather Emergency Protocol (SWEP), providing warm overnight spaces and implementing plans to bring people indoors throughout the weekend.

But what if your home is the cold place?

Research has laid bare a stark reality: a fifth of excess winter deaths stem from cold homes. This disheartening truth is acutely felt in the Southwest, where Bath grapples with the highest rate of cold-related deaths in the UK—a situation exacerbated by fuel poverty and insufficiently insulated homes.

Unfortunately, about two-thirds of Bath and Northeast Somersets homes are rated EPC 'D' or below, emphasizing their inefficiency in heat retention. This inefficiency not only jeopardizes residents' health but also significantly inflates energy bills, with crisis hotspots facing an average annual energy bill of £2,340.

This challenge is far from new, and esteemed organisations such as Greenpeace, Age UK, Fuel Poverty Action, Shelter, Friends of the Earth, and National Energy Action have persistently advocated for the social and political significance of insulation. These charitable entities underscore the far-reaching impact on public health, particularly the heightened vulnerability of older individuals during winter months, while considering broader socio-environmental contexts.

Indeed, Green Group Councillor, Joanna Wright, raised the insulation issue over a decade ago with then-Liberal Democrat MP Donald Foster. In 2011, amidst talks with Age Concern and alongside Greenpeace, she addressed heating issues within the local area.

Councillor Wright adds, "The Green Party repeatedly raises the issue of insulation, as a major policy target for national and local government, because it literally keeps people alive, brings down bills and helps the planet.

"Why have the Liberal Democrats taken so long to grasp this key issue, in a city widely known to have many of the coldest homes in the UK?

"The Liberal Democrats were in coalition with the Conservatives and along with the Conservatives have failed to ensure policy and budgets are put in place at a local and national level. The Council and our MP should be ensuring greater action on insulation ensuring everyone in Bath live in warm homes?

"Consequently, Bath and North East Somerset coumcil now depend on government funding for essential retrofitting programs, given the unique challenges posed by Bath's historical architecture. The urgency for an emergency program to insulate all of Britain's homes by 2030 is paramount, serving to curb escalating energy bills and put an end to fuel poverty."

Residents are strongly encouraged to leverage various funding schemes and seek expert advice to enhance the energy efficiency of their properties. The Bright Green Homes scheme, supported by the government’s Home Upgrade Grant Scheme, extends funding support for measures including loft, underfloor, and wall insulation, air source heat pump central heating systems, and solar panels.

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