CONSERVATIVE councillors in North Yorkshire yesterday called on the Government to do more to tackle fuel poverty.

But Liberal Democrats said the county council should do more to help old people struggling to heat their homes.

Melva Steckles, Conservative member for central Richmondshire, tabled a motion at yesterday's full council meeting to raise awareness of the problem.

She said that over the past five years the average number of winter deaths over and above the norm in North Yorkshire was 43.

Her motion called on the Government to increase the basic winter fuel allowance for pensioners and end means testing for the Warm Front scheme, so that all older households are supplied with adequate central heating and insulation.

The motion was backed by the council, but Liberal Democrat members said it did not go far enough and have accused the Conservatives of being "all talk and no action".

They wanted the council to introduce a programme of support for those in need and appoint an energy champion to make sure that new measures are put into place, but the move did not win the backing of the ruling Conservative group.

Lib-Dem councillor Stuart Parsons, from Richmond, said: "The Tories are all talk and no action. Instead of just calling on everybody else to do something the county council should put its commitment where its mouth is."

Greg White, Conservative member for Pickering, seconded the original motion. He said measures such as bringing in an energy champion needed a lot more research before they were agreed.

"An energy champion won't make one person warmer this winter," he said.

"The reason for the motion was to draw people's attention to the fact that there is going to be a cold winter. The number of deaths is unnecessary - it is as simple as that.

"What the Liberal Democrats wanted is much more complicated and it wasn't right to discuss it in a 40 minute debate on the Wednesday before Christmas.

"It needs to go back to officers and we need to get their advice on how much something like this will cost before we go ahead."