MORE than 60,000 households in Lancashire struggle badly to pay their fuel bills, a new report says.

Last year’s Annual Fuel Poverty Statistics Report estimated that more than 10 per cent of homes are ‘fuel poor’, meaning they cannot afford to keep warm at a reasonable cost given their income.

The warning comes following Fuel Poverty Awareness Day, a national campaign to highlight the growing number of people who struggle to pay their energy bills.

As a result, many people resort to turning off their heating or turning down the thermostat to save money, but this could be putting their heath at risk.

According to the NHS, the risk of death is doubled on days where outside temperatures fall below 0c.

This comes following the Met Offices prediction that this week is set to be the coldest in the UK for a number of years with temperatures in East Lancashire hitting around -7c in places.

Blackburn with Darwen Council has commissioned local charity Care Network to provide advice and information for people struggling to keep warm at home after the council revealed 2015 and 16 saw more than 24,000 ‘excess winter deaths’ in England and Wales, a third of which were attributable to cold homes.

Care Network offers people living in the borough practical help and advice to keep warm at home, including assistance in claiming additional benefits and small grants to help towards improving heating, boiler replacement, loft and cavity wall insulation.

A council spokesman said the risks become more significant for people aged 65 and over, young children under five and people living with long-term conditions.

Cold weather increases the risk of heart attack, stroke, lung illnesses, flu and other conditions.

Accidents also increase as people slip and fall in the snow or ice risking serious injury the spokesman said

Councillor Brian Taylor, assistant executive member for health and adult social care, said: “We are delighted to be working with Care Network on this vitally important work.

This is part of the Council’s strategy to prevent ill health associated with living in a cold home.

Anyone with a concern is urged to contact Care Network.

We are determined to try and eradicate fuel poverty locally and this alongside other local schemes and initiatives will help us do so.

Keeping people warm and healthy, especially during the winter, is vitally important and a key priority for the Council.”

To find out more, call Care Network’s Healthy Homes team on 01254 507255.

The Oil Firing Technical Association, which represents the oil heating industry, has offered advice to households on low cost ways to maximise their heating.

These include adjusting heating timers as the weather changes, bleed radiators to make them more effective, improving insulation to reduce heat loss, purchase heating oil early to avoid emergency call out charges and regular boiler services to check the system is working correctly and efficiently.