Number of households in fuel poverty rises

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The number of households struggling to meet the cost of gas and electricity has increase, according to new government figures.

Statistics from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) have revealed that around 3.5 million households were in fuel poverty in 2006, an increase of one million on the previous year.

It was also found that the overall cost of energy for residential customers rose by over a fifth during the same period.

Hilary Benn, the environment secretary, said the findings highlighted how rising gas and electricity costs have made tackling fuel poverty "increasingly difficult".

"Programmes are in place, funding is available and we will continue to do everything we can to help people save money and save energy, both this winter and for the years ahead," he added.

The government recently announced that a new body has been created to protect the interests of energy customers in the UK.

Consumer Focus has been established through a merger between the Consumer Council, energywatch and Postwatch.

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