Red Wall fuel poor to be hit first under Government plans to scrap gas boilers

11th Feb 2021


A leaked email from the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) suggests newly held Conservative ‘Red Wall’ seats will see major reductions in support to help the fuel poor.

Under plans being discussed, from 2022 the Energy Company Obligation (ECO) will no longer replace broken or inefficient gas boilers with modern, efficient appliances. It means the poorest households in England will have to find £2300 themselves; try and repair the boiler or go cold. 

News of these plans emerged during the coldest period of the winter and just a week after Ofgem increased the price cap on energy bills by £96. 

In the leaked confirmatory email, which followed a meeting where this bombshell news was first discussed, a BEIS official is quoted as saying: “… intend to limit our support for new gas heating systems in future.  I think it unlikely that we will support first time gas central heating under ECO from 2022 which would leave a hole in funding beyond the FPNES connection. However, that and the provision of replacement boilers is going to be one of the tricker questions to resolve.” 

Responding to the news, Mike Foster CEO of the Energy and Utilities Alliance, a not-for-profit trade body said: 

“In the middle of winter, during a global pandemic, the week after energy bills have rocketed for millions it appears the Government is planning to cut vital support to the poorest in our communities. I bet politicians haven’t been told yet what is coming.” 

“This plan will hit those who struggle to pay their bills the hardest. It is a cruel policy, that will leave thousands in the desperate position of having to find over £2000 to replace a boiler, making do and repairing a faulty appliance or left going cold.” 

“According to the Energy Savings Trust, a new boiler with controls replacing an old, non-condensing appliance can save households up to £315 a year, as well as cutting carbon emissions.” 

“ECO is funded by the energy suppliers but under Government direction. So this isn’t about money but a policy choice by BEIS officials. It isn’t even what the Prime Minister wants. At a time when boilers are being designed as hydrogen-ready, equipped to switch fuels to meet the Net Zero ambitions of Number 10, cutting back help to the poorest this way is simply bizarre.” 

“The great irony, is that parts of the country that will be hit hardest by these plans are the North-East and North-West where local MPs are supporting moves towards hydrogen towns and cities. Many of the so-called Red Wall seats have historically been the biggest beneficiaries of ECO funding, sometimes getting two or even three times more than the English average in support.”

“We all want to decarbonise heating, but to penalise the poorest when they are at their most vulnerable is not the way to do it. Having gas boilers fitted into homes that are capable of running on carbon-free fuel is the best way forward for the vast majority of those currently connected to the gas grid.” 

Notes for the editor:

According to the English Housing Survey 85% of homes in England are currently connected to the gas grid.

Since the start of ECO, 676142 new gas boilers have been fitted under the funding scheme, with 336561 sets of new heating controls.                                   Table 2.6.

The average number of ECO measures (not just boilers but all measures) fitted in England are 103.6 per 1000 homes. Regional hotspots include the North East 147.2/1000; North West 171.0/1000 and the West Midlands 145.1/1000.                                    Table 3.3

Those areas with the highest number of ECO measures fitted in England – extract from Table 3.4

Table 3.4                                                                    

Area names                ECO measures per 1,000 households                                    

ENGLAND                               103.6

NORTH EAST                           147.2

           County Durham                       155.5

           Hartlepool                  256.4

           Middlesbrough            236.9

           Redcar and Cleveland  185.0

           Stockton-on-Tees        174.3


NORTH WEST             171.0

            Blackburn with Darwen                       370.3

            Blackpool                     359.3                                    

                        Bolton  199.9

                        Bury     175.4

                        Manchester      219.5

                        Oldham           309.1

                        Rochdale         211.7

                        Tameside         217.0

                        Burnley            304.2

                        Hyndburn        264.0

                        Pendle 329.8

                        Preston            200.7

                        Knowsley         188.7

                        Liverpool         174.4

                        Sefton  202.8

                        Wirral   175.4


WEST MIDS                145.1

                        Birmingham     254.4

                        Sandwell          200.8

                        Walsall 232.1


Copy of the leaked email is available upon request.