Heat or eat: the choice facing Bognor Regis households

An estimated 3,500 households across Bognor Regis may be forced to choose between heating or eating this winter.

The number of those in fuel poverty is expected to increase as the impact of soaring fuel bills is felt in household budgets.

The problem is likely to be at its worst in the town’s Marine and Pevensey areas which are above the average most-deprived wards in the country.

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Edith Spade lives in Collyer Avenue and is already worried about heating her home over the winter.

“Gas and electric prices just seem to be going up and up. I have not had my central heating on yet. I’m too afraid of getting a high bill.

“It is getting colder during the night and sometimes I even go to bed wearing my dressing gown,” added the 85-year-old.

But the problem is not just a worry for elderly residents.

Mother-of-two Laura Timms, 32, said she was concerned rocketing energy prices could leave her family out in the cold.

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“I was made redundant a couple of years ago and since then I have been struggling to find work. Thankfully my husband is fairly well-paid and we can just about struggle on.

“I am really worried about how much energy prices will rise as the weather gets colder. With two young children I have no choice but to put the fire on.

“It really is sickening to hear while normal families are suffering, energy companies are making huge profits. I read somewhere one company is giving those who switch to paying by direct debit a discount. Well, I already pay this way, so I won’t be getting any money off.”

Age UK West Sussex will be launching its Spread the Warmth campaign in November just as the temperature starts to dip and the need for heating increases.

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This will call for an emergency winter plan to be put in place and for a national policy change to tackle fuel poverty and energy efficiency.

The charity will be working with the national Age UK body to highlight the growing concern of fuel poverty.

It will encourage all older people to get practical help to make their homes more energy-efficient and to stay warm during the winter.

Affordable warmth roadshows will also take place around the county in partnership with local councils to raise awareness of the situation.

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This will build on Age UK West Sussex’s existing work. It includes a countywide advice helpline and services to nearly 2,000 older residents, their families and carers through activity centres and an information and advice service.

Fuel poverty is defined as a household where more than ten per cent of income is spent on heating.