Stockport Express Column – January 2016 As temperatures plunged last week many older people turned down their heating at a time when they should have been turning it up high. Almost five million pensioners said they rationed their heating during the cold spell because they could not afford higher bills. Our pensioners are part of a generation who fear getting into debt. Last winter there was a staggering 40,800 excess winter deaths among the over 65s from cold-related illness such as heart attacks and strokes. These awful figures represented a dramatic increase and they highlight the imperative of us doing much more to tackle the underlying problems. There is growing frustration over the failure of the big six energy companies to reduce prices despite two years of falling energy costs. Wholesale prices have fallen by almost 50 per cent in that time but the average household bill of more than £1,300 a year has come down by only 14 per cent. We have a toxic combination of some of the coldest, most draughty homes in Europe, high energy bills and the absence of a comprehensive energy efficiency scheme to support older people in insulating their homes, so they can protect themselves against the very real threat of cold to their health.