37 of 40 most marginal constituencies being hit harder by gas crisis

Leaky homes push up bills more for constituents in marginals, new ECIU analysis finds.

By Kathy Grenville


Last updated:

New analysis by the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit (ECIU) reveals that 37 of the 40 most marginal seats (where there were less than 2,000 votes between first and second place in the 2019 General Election) have a greater than average proportion of homes that don’t meet Energy Performance Certificate band C – a standard that the Government wants all homes to meet by 2035 as part of net zero.

This means more households in these constituencies are paying an additional £170-£400 a year (depending on if they are Band D or down at Band F) with the gas price so high and so much heat being wasted.

Jess Ralston, Lead Author of the report and Analyst at ECIU said: “Net zero means insulating homes, wasting less energy and so cutting bills. The current gas crisis is a stark reminder of how vulnerable so many households are to the volatility of the international gas price. Drilling in the North Sea doesn’t shield us from the fact that gas is an international market, currently being driven up by Russia reducing flows.

“To protect bill payers from this and the next crisis, the UK has to use less gas, and that means better insulated homes that stay warm. The green levies on bills have helped millions upgrade their homes over the years, but still millions more people are living in cold, damp houses affecting their physical and mental health.

Short-term lump payments to help those struggling with bills are to be welcomed, but are a sticking plaster that don’t provide peace of mind that this situation won’t happen again.”

The analysis found that 18 seats were Conservative/Labour and 4 were Conservative/Liberal Democrat marginals that have below average housing. Polling just ahead of the last election found that insulation was the top local infrastructure priority with 33% choosing this compared to 12% for new roads.

27 of the 40 most marginal seats also have higher than average levels of fuel poverty, including Dewsbury in West Yorkshire which had a buffer of just 1,561 votes in 2019 when it was gained by the Conservatives (from Labour). In this constituency over a quarter (27%) or 11,500 households are living in fuel poverty, the highest proportion found in the whole of England.

The report also highlights that the highest proportion of homes below the Government’s EPC target are located disproportionately in the North and Midlands and in the private rented and owner-occupier sectors. It also shows that it is the most vulnerable (including older people and households with children) that live in the coldest, poorest quality homes.

The analysis follows last week’s release of the government’s Levelling Up White Paper, which included one of its missions to cut the number of non-decent rented homes by 50% by 2030.

Alexander Stafford, Member of Parliament for Rother Valley, said:

The warmth, comfort and health of people’s homes is of the utmost importance to them and the wider cause of ‘levelling-up’. The impending rise in energy bills is of grave concern to many people not just in Rother Valley but across most parts of the UK, and while short-term help is much needed, we also need to insulate ourselves and our bills against any future gas crises.

“Some have sought to attack ‘net-zero’ as being part of the problem, I actually say it’s part of the solution. By making homes more energy efficient and by decreasing our reliance on fossil fuels in favour of cheaper renewables, we are on a path which will eventually rid us of the regular uncertainty of fluctuating gas prices.”

Andy McDonald, Member of Parliament for Middlesbrough and member of the Business Energy and Industrial Strategy Select Committee said:

“Recent measures announced by the government are only a short-term stopgap solution to the gas crisis. Many people have been spending too much on energy bills for years because of lack of investment in good quality homes and insulation.

“Too many people are living in cold, damp, unhealthy households and it’s a serious concern for people across Middlesbrough. They want and deserve to live in warm homes without extortionate bills.

“Helping local communities thrive and our net zero target are two sides of the same coin and we must focus on wasting less energy, cutting bills for the long-term, reducing emissions and insulating ourselves against future gas crises.”