NEW official figures revealed that 2,900 more people died in the North West during the winter months of 2018/19 compared to the rest of the year.

Despite the figures dropping from 6,690 in the previous year’s ‘Beast from the East’ big freeze, charity National Energy Action (NEA) has said the numbers remain an ‘annual badge of shame’.

The organisation also published local authority figures which showed that hundreds of extra people die each year in East Lancashire because of causes related to cold weather and cold homes.

The figures are released to coincide with Friday’s Fuel Poverty Awareness Day.

In 2017/18, when excess winter deaths hit a 30-year high, 90 more people died in Blackburn with Darwen during the winter than would have been expected in the remainder of the year.

The equivalent figure for Burnley was 80, for Hyndburn was 50, for Pendle was 80, for Ribble Valley was 60 and for Rossendale 70.

The figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) reveal that in 2016/17 the number of excess winter deaths in Blackburn with Darwen was 40 and in 2015/16 60 was 30.

They show that the number of excess deaths in Burnley in 201617 was 100 and in 2015/16 was 40.

In Hyndburn the figures were 40 and 10; in Pendle 60 and 40; in Ribble Valley 50 and 40; and in Rossendale 70 in both winters.

NEA Chief Executive Adam Scorer said: “This is an annual badge of shame.

“Cold homes kill thousands of people across the UK each winter through respiratory and cardio-vascular diseases, influenza, and, in a small number of cases, hypothermia. For the ‘dead of winter’, their homes were death traps. The figures may be down from last year, but that’s the luck of the weather, not government action."

Dominic Harrison, Blackburn with Darwen’s director of public health, said an estimated 16.5 per cent of the borough’s were in fuel poverty and struggled to afford to heat their homes.

He said: “Winter can be a difficult time for everyone. As the temperature drops and conditions worsen the risks of winter become more significant, especially for people aged 65 and over and young children under five. Keeping people warm and healthy is a key priority.”