FORTY-TWO people die in Hartlepool every year due to the effects of cold weather – and there are fears rising energy costs could claim even more lives.
Shocked town MP Iain Wright has vowed to raise the matter in Parliament, and has called on energy firms to cut prices for vulnerable customers.
Mr Wright described the figures as “shocking and horrific”, and fears the number of tragedies will increase even more as rises in energy bill prices hit the consumer.
Mr Wright and Hartlepool Mayor Stuart Drummond both insist measures must be taken to make sure the worrying figures drop quickly.
Pensioners, the very young and people with underlying medical conditions such as asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease are said to be most at risk during the winter snap of cold weather.
Health bosses are now issuing advice to people and urging them to do all they can to stay safe this winter.
Mr Wright told the Mail that he now plans to highlight to the worrying figures in the House of Commons.
He urged energy companies to play their part in helping to reduce the number of deaths, saying the lowest possible tariff should be offered to the must vulnerable customers.
He said: “This is truly shocking, it’s horrific.
“I’m concerned that the figures will increase even more when we see the price increase in energy bills feed through to the consumer.
“I think everyone, whether it’s the Government, energy companies, charities or voluntary organisations need to make sure they are doing all they can to work with the community to ensure people’s safety.”
The shocking figures revealed that Hartlepool’s deaths are just some of the 1,376 people who die because of cold weather in the North East every year.
Hartlepool Mayor Stuart Drummond urged anybody with any concerns to contact the local authority as soon as possible and Hartlepool’s Shadow Health and Wellbeing Board has issued advice to protect residents this winter.
People are encouraged to make sure their home is properly insulated, to claim any grants they are entitled to and to check on vulnerable neighbours.
Mayor Drummond said: “There has to be ways to reduce this shocking figure and the more we look into it and the more we can do the better.
“If people are worried they can come and speak to us and we can give advice.
“Things like getting a flu jab, making sure homes are properly insulated and looking at the availabilities of grants will all make a difference.”
Bosses at national charity Age UK said the deaths are preventable.
Michelle Morris, Age UK’s charity director general, said: “This is due not only to the cold but also to the country’s inability to meet the challenge of dropping temperatures.
“These deaths are the tip of an iceberg of illness, misery and anxiety which grips Britain every winter. We know that behind these shocking figures lie deep- seated social issues.”
Cleveland Fire Brigade recently launched its Stay Safe and Warm campaign, aiming to raise awareness of the dangers faced by people who struggle to keep warm during the winter months.
Anyone who is worried that they may not be able to heat their home properly or is concerned about a family member, friend or neighbour, should call Cleveland Fire Brigade on 01429 874063 or visit www.clevelandfire.gov.uk/warm.