Four old people each day will die as a result of the cold in Leeds this winter as the city’s elderly population struggles with the grim task of deciding whether to ‘eat or heat’.
That was the warning today from the Age UK charity, highlighting the tragic human cost of the country’s rising fuel bills.
Four of the UK’s so-called ‘big six’ energy suppliers have recently announced plans to put up their prices.
SSE, British Gas, Npower and Scottish Power are hiking their domestic charges by as much as 10 per cent from the middle of next month.
Age UK Leeds chief executive Solo, who uses just a single name, told the Yorkshire Evening Post: “The older population simply cannot afford [these price rises]. It is a choice between eating or heating for many. Both have serious consequences if not undertaken.
“Each day in Leeds throughout the winter weather, four people aged over 65 die unnecessarily due to cold related problems, such as pneumonia, poor circulation or diabetes related complaints.
“The more vulnerable among the elderly are certainly seriously at risk with the added price rises.”
Leeds is home to around 97,000 people aged between 60 and 75, with a further 55,000 residents over 75.
The number of people over the age of 85 has risen by 15 per cent in the last 10 years.
Four in every 10 single pensioner households are classed as being in ‘fuel poverty’ as they spend more than 10 per cent of their income on energy.
Concerns about how they will cope this winter are also being voiced by Ailsa Rhodes, from Holt Park-based charity Opal (Older People’s Action in the Locality).
She said: “Older people are on a fixed income so don’t have any way of finding extra income and so have to make difficult choices such as whether to eat or keep warm. For those that can afford to eat and keep warm, there are many that then can’t afford to do anything else or go anywhere so their isolation and loneliness is exacerbated.”
One person at the sharp end, 86-year-old Audrey Howarth, of Cookridge, said: “It’s going to be very difficult for a lot of people. I do know people who are isolated and never leave their house and need the heating on all the time, so they will feel it more. It is a huge rise – and snow will be here by mid-November, which makes it more difficult to get out.”
The UK’s power suppliers have defended their price increases by saying they are partly the result of the spiralling wholesale cost of energy.