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Concerns raised that energy bill hikes could see an increase in winter deaths in Brent

PUBLISHED: 12:54 01 November 2013 | UPDATED: 12:55 01 November 2013

Brent residents face a 'heat or eat' decision (Pic credit: Peter Byrne/PA)

Brent residents face a 'heat or eat' decision (Pic credit: Peter Byrne/PA)

PA Wire/Press Association Images

Brent residents face a shocking “heat or eat” decision this winter, which could see deaths rise across the borough, it is feared.

According to Public Health England (PHE), about 40 people in the borough are expected to die as energy bills surge during plummeting temperatures.

However, the statistics, the most recent collected by PHE, are for the year 2010/11, raising concerns that the death toll could be higher as heating costs rise.

Sarah Cox, a health campaigner in Brent, said: “I think the number of people dying in the borough will rise considerably with the recent energy price rises and the price of everything increasing.

“People are literally choosing between heating or eating and the price of food is going up too.

“It’s a disgrace but not surprising. This will have a knock-on effect for the NHS as more people will become ill. If the government wants to do something it should force the companies to freeze energy prices or re-nationalise the whole industry.”

Bromley is expected to have the highest number of deaths – 185 – and the wealthy City of London the lowest, with four.

On Monday, PHE launched a Cold Weather Plan to help prevent avoidable deaths by aiming to ensure residents keep warm during the icy spells.

It is urging vulnerable people to make their homes more energy efficient by applying for available grants, ensure they receive a flu jab and set their heating to the right temperature (18-21°C).

The six biggest energy companies were summoned by the government to appear before the Energy and Climate Change Select Committee to account for their pricing polices on Tuesday.

Company bosses defended the rise, partly blaming green taxes.

Cllr Muhammed Butt, leader of Brent Council, is urging residents to sign up to the Big London Energy Switch which promises lower bills.

He said: “With these bills spiralling out of control and cuts squeezing the household budgets of families and pensioners, it’s vital that we help residents to make their money go further.

“Anyone can sign up to this scheme for free and at no obligation to take part.

“The more people who sign up to it, the greater the savings we’ll be able to deliver for our residents.

“Through standing together as a united community we can take on the big energy companies – who seem intent on screwing every last penny out of the less fortunate – and emerge from tough times as a stronger and fairer borough.”

To find out more about the scheme visit www.biglondonenergyswitch.org.uk or call 0845 208 0237.


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