AROUND one in ten households in Bournemouth and Poole are in 'fuel poverty', according to a Government report.

Figures from the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy show that 12 per cent of households in Bournemouth, more than 10,000 in all, and 10 per cent in Poole, or 6,500, would be pushed into poverty by the cost of heating and lighting their homes properly.

The rate for the South West is 10 per cent and across England it is 11 per cent.

Each household is on average £391 short of their required energy bills each year – a measure called the 'fuel poverty gap'.

A study published in February by fuel poverty charity National Energy Action and climate-focused think tank E3G estimated that fuel poverty accounts for over 1,000 excess winter deaths in England each year.

Peter Smith, co-author of the study and director of policy and research at National Energy Action, said: "We know that living in fuel poverty causes winter hardship and premature mortality.

"It's been shown by not only our charity but also the committee on fuel poverty that the Government's existing set of policies aren't sufficient in scale to address the problem."

Households with four or more occupants are more than twice as likely to be in fuel poverty and have an average fuel poverty gap £100 higher than households with three or fewer occupants.

The figures also show that more than a quarter of single parent households are fuel poor – a dramatically higher rate compared with the national average, and nearly twice as high as the rate for couples with children.

A BEIS spokesperson said: "We don't want anyone to live in fuel poverty.

"We are introducing a temporary price cap to stop rip-off price rises and unjustified energy prices for households on standard variable and default tariffs.

"We're also tackling the root causes by investing £6 billion in improving energy efficiency in some of the UK's poorest homes over the next 10 years."

In 2018 the Government predicts that the proportion of households in fuel poverty will decrease slightly, but that rising energy prices will push the national average fuel poverty gap up by nearly 10 per cent, from £326 to £357.

Mr Smith said that the Government definition of fuel poverty fails to take into account families already below the poverty line, for whom even 'low fuel costs' are unaffordable.

He says that NEA also wants to see fuel bill discounts and energy price caps, available to those on benefits, offered to working families with low earnings.