Council leader calls for zero VAT on energy bills

The leader of Cumbria County Council, Eddie Martin, has written to the Chancellor of the Exchequer asking him to scrap VAT on energy bills.

Mr Martin claims more than a quarter of homes in Cumbria are now in "fuel poverty", which means they spend more than 10% of income on fuel.

In his letter he describes the situation in Cumbria as "deteriorating at an alarming and disturbing rate".

The Chancellor George Osborne is due to deliver his budget on 21 March.

Writing to the Chancellor, Conservative councillor Mr Martin said that children growing up in poverty in Cumbria were more likely to suffer poor health, do less well in school and become the next generation of adults at risk of unemployment and long-term poverty.

Statistics quoted in the letter show that there are more than 61,161 households in Cumbria currently living in fuel poverty - equal to 28% of the total number of households in the county.

This is a 130% increase in the number of Cumbrian homes classed as being in fuel poverty since 2005.

Mr Martin said: "I appreciate the current financial restrictions and the limited room for manoeuvre but would argue, nonetheless, that caring for the vulnerable in our midst must take priority."

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