The Bishop of Norwich praises the Surviving Winter Appeal in Norfolk

You've got a big heart Norfolk – as well as big skies.

That was the message from the Bishop of Norwich last night, as he thanked the thousands who have dug deep to help elderly people heat their homes this winter.

More than �47,000 has now been donated to the Surviving Winter Appeal, launched by the Norfolk Community Foundation, Age UK Norfolk and the EDP in November.

A further �25,000 has come from Norfolk County Council, taking the total to �72,000 – almost three times the original target.

That money has helped hundreds of households caught in a spiral of rising bills and cuts to fuel allowances.

In an open letter to all who have donated to the appeal, The Right Rev Graham James, Bishop of Norwich, said: 'We haven't waited for the government to do something to benefit those in greatest need in our county. We've shown that we can do it ourselves.

'That's typical of Norfolk and it's one of the reasons why this is a county with a big heart as well as big skies.'

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Graham Tuttle, director of the community foundation, said: 'Age UK have told us that the fund has helped hundreds of households across Norfolk.

'This appeal has been a major success for the Norfolk Community Foundation and does demonstrate the true value of partnerships in our community and voluntary sector, as the support of Age UK and the EDP in this appeal has been pivotal to its success.

'When we started the appeal back in November, we hoped to raise �25,000 and have been so pleased that we have achieved that target and considerably more.

'This can only benefit those that continue to need help at this difficult time of year.

'If people would still like to support the appeal we would be only too happy to receive any donations.'

Researchers say there are more than 60,000 households suffering fuel poverty in Norfolk. Deprivation levels in some areas of North Norfolk and Great Yarmouth rival those of our inner cities.

Parts of Norfolk are feared to have a higher percentage of deaths than the UK average due to elderly people being unable to afford to heat their homes.

Experts warned the picture could be even worse this year, with fuel bills set to rise by nearly 20pc, while allowances paid to the elderly have fallen from �250 to �200, and from �400 to �300 for those aged over 80.

Many living in the most rural parts of Norfolk, Suffolk and Cambridgeshire are not connected to mains gas. Many use oil-fired boilers to heat their homes, meaning they must buy fuel in bulk instead of being able to spread the cost over the year. Heating oil prices rose by 44pc last winter.

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