Warning as winter deaths soar

PUBLISHED: 09:07 21 December 2006 | UPDATED: 10:22 24 May 2010

ELDERLY people across Somerset are being warned not to cut back on heating this winter after the number of deaths last year rose by a staggering 100 per cent, in some places. Weston Senior Citizens Forum chairman Ken Lacey says the shocking figures arose

ELDERLY people across Somerset are being warned not to cut back on heating this winter after the number of deaths last year rose by a staggering 100 per cent, in some places. Weston Senior Citizens Forum chairman Ken Lacey says the shocking figures arose because people on little money choose food above heating.He warns: "Death numbers will spiral if we get a really cold spell in January and February as we usually do."The figures released by Age Concern state that 80 elderly people died due to the cold in Sedgemoor last year compared to 40 in 2003/2004, a 100 per cent increase.North Somerset has also seen a rise of almost 36 per cent with 130 dying last year compared to 90 in 2003/2004.Age Concern is urging older people not to put their health at risk by trying to keep their heating bills down.Mr Lacey said: "For many pensioners it's a matter of eating or heating. That's what it basically boils down to, it's a rather stark choice. Many are choosing eating and trying to keep warm but it's not a happy situation."With escalating electricity and gas prices it puts unbearable pressure on their small budgets. You are considered to be in fuel poverty if you spend 10 per cent of your weekly income on heating, which most people do.To try and reduce the number of deaths this winter Age Concern is advising elderly residents to shop around for their energy provider and consider switching to Age Concern Energy Services.Weston Senior Citizens Forum is also tackling the problem and has asked North Somerset Council to allow people to pay their council tax bills over 12 months instead of just 10 to free up some extra cash. The senior citizens forum is also backing a campaign to get a £200 payment for pensioners in the next budget set in Westminster.Help the Aged has designed a postcard addressed to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, in the shape of a bank note, with Gordon Brown's face on the front, asking pensioners to sign and send it to the Treasury in the hope of getting assistance with their council tax.The postcard reads: "Dear Mr Brown, in 2005 your budget made a £200 payment to pensioners to help them with the increased costs of living, in particular council tax. "However, in your 2006 budget the payment was withdrawn, despite the fact the council tax system has not been reformed and living costs for pensioners have continued to rise well above Government measures of inflation."Anyone interested in finding out more about Age Concern's Energy Services or the Government's winter fuel rebate can visit the charity at St John's Hall, The Boulevard, Weston, or call 01934 624360.

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