Cold Homes & Forced Rhubarb – my column in the Wakefield Express

More than a million older people live in cold homes because they’re unable to afford to adequately heat their homes. According to Age UK, tens of thousands die prematurely each winter. And in Cold Homes week I popped in to chat with residents at Springhills.

Winter Fuel Payments were a huge step forward in helping pensioners out of fuel poverty. £200 extra (£300 for the overs 80s), makes a massive difference when you need to have the heating on all day to keep warm.

At a public meeting in Wrenthorpe on Friday we discussed the importance of this help with the cost of winter bills. But with the economic recovery still extremely fragile, there will be some difficult decisions for whoever wins the General Election in May. I’ve said that with our public services still under such pressure, we should stop paying the winter fuel allowance to the richest five per cent of pensioners – those with a pension of over £42,000. Because in difficult times, it’s important to ensure that we can as much support as possible to those who need it most.

But, with cold homes still a major factor in too many winter deaths every year, as well as keeping winter fuel payments for 95 per cent of pensioners, the Government also needs to support people to reduce their bills too. Unfortunately, support for households in fuel poverty has halved under this Government which is a really big concern.

And we also desperately need to sort out the energy market which isn’t working. I am committed to reforming the market so that it works better for ordinary people. We need to see prices frozen so that bills can only fall but not rise and we need the regulator to have tough new powers so they can force energy companies to cut their prices when wholesale costs falls.

I will continue to press for action on bills and to reform the energy market.

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And the magic of our local forced rhubarb was brought to life once again last weekend at the annual Wakefield Rhubarb Festival organised by Wakefield Council.

I support the festival every year. Sometimes I visit the sheds and I always cook something but this year my rhubarb cooking took a more public dimension as I took to the stage with local chef, Heather Copley to rustle up rump lamb with a rhubarb mash. I’m a regular at Copley’s Farm Shop near Pontefract but it was quite a different experience to be on stage, mic-ed up, cooking for an audience. Hopefully we did ok – people certainly tucked in afterwards!

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Posted February 27th, 2015 by Ed