ONE in five Barnsley households - which equates to almost 21,000 people - are now classed as living in fuel poverty but the figure is believed to be even higher, shock new figures have revealed.

Government statistics show 20,798 said they struggled to heat their homes and were designated as having to spend over ten per cent of their income on fuel.

Figures from the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy are from data collected in 2020 - but there are now worries that the numbers will have increased even more due to the cost-of-living crisis and the impact of the pandemic.

John Healey, MP for Wentworth and Dearne, said: “The crisis is getting worse - people are scared about how they will get through the winter.

“These figures show that people across Barnsley were already struggling with the cost of energy bills before prices spiralled even further out of control.

“My concern is that in reality, two years on from the basis of these findings, the number of people facing fuel poverty is now even higher.

“We can’t continue making working people pay whatever the big energy companies demand.

“Labour would stop the price cap going up - that would save households £1,000 this winter, and we would invest in sustainable, homegrown energy to bring bills down in the long-term.”

It comes as a report by the University of York revealed almost 60 per cent of households will be plunged into fuel poverty by January - leading to fears over the town’s growing excess winter death rates.

Malcolm Farrow, from heating trade organisation OFTEC (Oil Firing Technical Association), said: “As we face another winter in the midst of a global pandemic, our attention is rightly placed on protecting as many people as possible from infection.

“We must not forget, however, that even without the impact of the coronavirus, thousands of people continue to die in avoidable circumstances because they live in a cold home.

“We have serious concerns that another cold winter, coupled with rising living costs and the ongoing risk posed by coronavirus, could make this situation much worse, as more households face a stark choice between heating and eating.

The government needs to take action and provide more support for fuel poor households to help tackle the excess winter death crisis we are facing.”

Calls are growing for the government to increase a so-called windfall tax on oil and gas producers whose profits have rocketed during the last two years.

BP made £6.9bn between April and June, three times the amount it made last year, and Shell made around £10bn over the same period.

Barnsley East MP Stephanie Peacock said: “I know more families than ever are becoming scared of how they will pay their heating bills in the coming months.

“Over the last year, people have already been making sacrifices to their budgets where they can - from pensioners cutting down on essentials to parents giving up meals so their children can eat.

“Now, for most, there is no longer any room for manoeuvre.

“As it stands, the Conservatives have lost control of the economy, and working people are being left to pay the price.”