Addressing fuel poverty in rural Northumberland
What is the Northumberland Log Bank?
The objectives of the Northumberland Log Bank are:
The prevention or relief of poverty in rural Northumberland and surrounding areas by providing seasoned wood fuel to those suffering financial hardship, chronic ill-health, disability or isolation, or to those who have difficulty obtaining or handling logs due to advanced age.
The prevention or relief of poverty in rural Northumberland and surrounding areas by signposting the recipients of the wood fuel to other organisations which could help improve their circumstances.
[A project supported by Northumberland County Council]
The Log Banks at Wooler and Haydon Bridge
Why have a Log Bank?
Fuel poverty is affected by three key factors – income, fuel costs and home energy consumption/energy efficiency – and relates to homes that have to spend a high proportion of their household income to keep their home at an adequate standard of warmth.
Fuel poverty can have a detrimental impact on physical health as well as increasing the risk of mental health problems and negatively impacting children’s education.
A key issue for Northumberland is improving the energy efficiency of people’s homes.
Fuel poverty is a particular challenge because of the Northumberland’s geography.
In terms of emissions, wood is considered a better fuel than coal, oil or LPG (currently) particularly if it sourced locally and sustainably. The efficiency of it burning as a fuel depends on the stove/fire, moisture content, and similar. In light of recent legislation, we want you to know that all the logs we supply are seasoned and dry.
Fuel Poverty by Region 2017
|Region||No. of households||No. households in fuel poverty||% of fuel-poor households|
- Northumberland is 96.7% rural, 49.1% of the population live in a rural area, round 156,000 people.
- Council Tax Support claims: 17 of the 20 highest claiming parishes are rural. Rural areas have lower take-up of benefit entitlement, particularly among older residents.
- Average rural household disposable income dropped by 3% between 2013 and 2017, rising in urban areas by 4%.
- A third of Northumberland’s employee jobs had hourly pay below the real living wage – putting the County in the bottom 11% in England.
- In 2017 14,847 (24.18%) youngsters throughout Northumberland faced poverty – up from 23.48% on the 2016 figures. The sharpest percentage rise in the Berwick constituency was in Wooler. Other wards to notice a significant increase are Shilbottle and Rothbury.
- In 2016, Northumberland was home to almost 1 in 4 people over the age of 65. (24%). By 2036, this is predicted to rise to 1 in 3.
- 13.2% of the population of Northumberland live in one of the 10% most deprived areas of England.
- See the following map of Index of Multiple Deprivation (IMD) across Northumberland 0 there is an arc of deprivation (blue-turquoise) from the north across to the west of the county.
Credit: The above image contains public sector information licensed under the Open Government Licence v3.0 (Source: see Note 2).
- From April to September 2019, more than 42,000 food parcels were handed out to people in the North East … and the number is rising.
- In 2017/18 the West Northumberland Foodbank (Hexham, Haltwhistle & Prudhoe) received a record 2,986 requests for help. A total of over 1,140 people from 493 households, including 450 children, were provided with food and support.
- Rural food banks in Northumberland are providing approx 440 parcels per month (for urban areas it is approx 340 parcels).
Where have we got to?
- There are two Log Banks, both on farms, one is just outside Wooler serving north Northumberland & the other near Haydon Bridge for west Northumberland/Tynedale.
- We are a non-registered charity with a Constitution under the auspices of Northumberland Community Voluntary Action.
- We have a bank account at the Northumberland Community Bank.
- We have trustees and a fundraising plan.
- Three large estates – Ford & Etal, Northumberland Estates and Newcore – have donated logs or wood, as has as a large lumbar company, more are signing up.
- Northumberland County Council bought us a trailer!
And most important of all – From September to December 2019, the Northumberland Log Bank delivered logs to 22 households, some only once, some up to eight times, ranging geographically from Crookham to Riding Mill, and from Kielder to Craster…
but this is only a drop in the ocean, there are thousands more households in fuel poverty!
How to improve?
- We need to expand and supply about 2,000 households but keep it as simple as possible.
- The number of households we deliver to can increase hugely but only if we find more volunteers (e.g. working with the Oswin Project).
- We can take a model Log Banks – i.e.do a road show – and help set up several smaller/satellite locations in, for example, Berwick, Bellingham & Rothbury, run by the community, but the aim is to have one very well equipped feeder Log Bank and get a grant for solar panels so we have electricity for charging a van and chainsaws.
- We need an electric van to reduce our costs and carbon footprint.
- Working closely with food banks means we are able to connect with those in need.
- If we cut delivery costs, the scheme only needs a few thousand pounds a year to operate, to train volunteers and for equipment.
- We hope to remain non-intrusive – all we ask is for log recipients to sign a letter to allow us to have their contact details and to agree the safety of the fire/log burner is their responsibility.
- The second Log Bank Object, i.e.. signposting households in fuel poverty to other organisation who could help make their lives more sustainable – will begin in the summer months.
Would you like to help?
Can you spare a few hours a week to help collect, prepare and deliver logs?
We are looking for volunteers, especially those with appropriate skills or anyone interested in undergoing training: developing skills and knowledge around safeguarding are also essential.
The Northumberland Log Bank is still just a sapling, but it would not have sprouted without the support of the following individuals and organisations. A huge thank you!Kate Thick (Founding Trustee), Barbara Morris (Trustee), Mark Davies (Trustee)
- Mark Robson, Turvelaws Farm
- Marc Johnson, Northumberland Community Voluntary Action
- Tom Johnston, The Glendale Gateway Trust
- Lord James Joicey, Ford and Etal Estate
- Tim Miller-Fay, Northumberland County Council
- Robbie Burn (volunteer)
- Alan Phipps (volunteer)
- Keith Bell, A&J Scott Ltd
- Ian Fletcher, Lantra Instructor and Assessor
- Northumberland Estates
- Newcore Capital
- Langley Castle Estate
- Lilburn Estate
A little of what we do…
Catherine Thick (Founding Trustee)
Tel: 07900 963234 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- ‘A little of what we do’ gallery images by Graham Williamson 2019 unless otherwise indicated. ‘Wooler Log Bank’ button by Graham Williamson 2020. All other images and text provided by Kate Thick on 2 Mar 2020 and used with permission.
- Source: Northumberland County Council ‘Indices of Deprivation 2019 – Northumberland Summary Report’ [Online]. Available: https://www.northumberland.gov.uk/NorthumberlandCountyCouncil/media/Northumberland-Knowledge/NK%20place/Indices%20of%20deprivation/Indices-of-Deprivations-2019-Summary-Report.pdf [Accessed 2 Mar 2020].