FUEL poverty will affect one in five Bolton families this winter.

New figures have revealed that 13,675 households in the town are expected to struggle to heat their homes.

Bolton’s Age UK says the figures come as no surprise and called for older people especially to be offered help with energy charges.

Gareth Evans, the chief officer at Age UK in Bolton, said: “Fuel poverty is a major issue for a lot of older people.

“We believe charges should be capped for older people and, indeed, certain other users.

“The regulator should reduce the profits recorded by the companies so tariffs are made more affordable.

“A fifth of Bolton households in fuel poverty is not surprising as older people spend an awful lot of their income on keeping their homes warm.”

He called for Ofgem, the organisation which regulates energy providers, to introduce a strict cap on energy prices.

A household is defined as being in fuel poverty when it must spend so much on heating that its remaining income takes it below the official poverty line.

Council bosses urged people to be prepared for cold weather this winter — and to make sure they get help if they cannot afford to heat their homes.

A council spokesman said: “The number one tip for winter is to be prepared.

“We advise people to use a room thermometer, stock up on tinned and frozen foods, have at least one hot meal a day and plenty of hot drinks.

“Residents should also consider draft-proofing their homes and checking with the council to see if they are eligible for winter weather payment, cold weather payment or warm homes discount.”

Late last year the Government struck a deal to cut green levies for energy companies.

Since then, all of the “big six” energy companies have passed on the savings with E.ON, EDF, SSE, British Gas, Scottish Power and npower all cutting their planned price rises.

But Bolton North East MP David Crausby says not enough is being done to protect hard up families when it comes to heating their homes.

The Labour Party, which has released the figures, claims the average family fuel bill has gone up by £300 a year since the coalition government came to power in May, 2010.

And since 2010, Scottish Power, nPower, EDF Energy, Scottish and Southern Energy, E.ON UK and Centrica's British Gas have recorded total profit increases of £3.3 billion — more than £1 billion per year.

Labour has promised to freeze energy prices for 20 months if it is elected next year.

Mr Crausby said: “I’ve spoken to many people who are terrified about the winter because they are struggling to heat their homes.

“This is not a car or a big TV we are talking about, this is something people cannot live without so prices must be fair.”

People are also urged to check on vulnerable neighbours, keep a supply of salt or sand handy to help grit icy paths, and wear plenty of layers and shoes with a good grip.

For more information on how to save money and stay warm during the winter, visit bolton.gov.uk/website/Pages/Energyefficiencyinthehome.aspx