Energy bills are still the biggest worry for families and individuals
Energy bills remain the biggest cost-of-living worry for many individuals and families across the country and Surrey. Ofgem, the regulator, has again cut the price cap reducing the bills most people will pay in October to December. Good news, but remember energy bills are still 60% higher than in 2021.
With persistent (albeit falling) high prices in other essentials it’s already clear households will struggle over the coming winter. In the 3 months to August CAEE clients asked for help with debt issues on 170 occasions, up 17% on 2022.
Borrow to pay
Meanwhile national Citizens Advice reports 7.8m people borrowing to pay for energy in the first 6 months of 2023. Its new report ‘suggests millions are facing a winter as bad, or even worse, than last winter’. Despite ‘unprecedented support’ record numbers asked the CA network for help last winter.
Monitoring local and national data we endorse this research entitled: Winter Warning: The urgent case for energy bill support this winter:
- Ofgem CEO told BBC Radio some households would use less but pay ‘slightly more’ this winter in a volatile market
- Food inflation slowed quickly in July: for milk cheese and eggs the annual rate of price increase was down from 22.8% in June to 18.7%. ONS
- Housing costs are punishing most private renters and large numbers of owner-occupiers who must re-mortgage at much higher rates of interest.
- Fuel prices fell faster in July than June contributing much to the overall fall in inflation. But some costs are still rising: the average motor insurance premium is 21% higher than in 2022, its highest since ABI began monitoring in 2012; vehicle licensing is up 9% (and ULEZ…let’s not go there.)
It’s welcome that average pay on most measures is now rising in real terms. Yet for the above reasons and more Resolution Foundation says the lower-income half of the working population will see a 2% cut in income in 2024-25.
Time is short
Citizens Advice proposals for avoiding real hardship this winter and in the year ahead note that time is short. The simplest, quickest way would be to continue universal support. Failing that however it is essential to target support ‘at those who need help the most’; they include disabled people, single parents and working households with low resilience.
The most accessible vehicle for enhanced support is the Warm Homes Discount with a broader base and increased funding. Whatever mechanism they choose Citizens Advice is clear ministers ‘must not stand by as disaster unfolds’.