On the 4th of February CURE hosted a cities@manchester Urban Forum on ‘Austerity, Warmth, and Well-being: Connecting Fuel Poverty and Urban Health’ together with the Institute of Population Health. Organised as a panel discussion, it was chaired by Arpana Varma (Institute of Population Health, University of Manchester) and had Pat Karney (Labour Councillor at the Manchester City Council), Damian Burton (SmartGreen Sustainability Limited), Simon Bowens (campaigner at Friends of the Earth) and CURE researcher Sergio Tirado-Herrero as as invited panellists.
A number of different interrelated issues were raised during the discussion with the audience pertaining to local fuel poverty issues in the Greater Manchester Area but also to the wider picture on the relationship between domestic thermal comfort and health. Among them were the everyday experience of deprived households in Manchester, the effects of cuts and austerity, and the interaction of fuel poverty with other health-relevant issues like the growing price of food and food poverty, as well as aspects of energy supply governance (with an explicit mention to the ‘Big Six’ UK energy suppliers). The debate also turned around the connection between fuel poverty and the development of renewables, the quality of the British housing stock, the need for integrated residential energy efficiency and health interventions (e.g., the city of Durham was presented as an example where doctors ‘prescribe’ energy efficiency interventions to patients in fuel poverty) and the effects of UK’s devolution of powers to local councils, with the politics of local government in the UK featuring as a prominent theme in the background.