Preparing for soaring energy bills
Gas and electricity bills are due to rise sharply in April when the energy price cap goes up.
The background to this is that shortages of natural gas around the world have bumped up the cost of gas for the energy companies that provide our homes with gas and electricity.
The energy price cap sets limits on how much we can be charged for the gas and electricity we use in our homes. In April this cap will be raised, meaning that bills will go up and vulnerable households could face some challenging times.
According to The Guardian newspaper, average bills are predicted to go up by about £700 a year. The government is aware of the problem and is expected to do something to help poorer households meet the rising costs of gas and electricity.
One option is that the government might cut or do away with VAT on household energy bills. However, this would help rich as well as poor households, and prime minister Boris Johnson has already said that he's not in favour of helping well-off families pay their bills. So a VAT cut seems unlikely.
Another possibility is that the government will reform the Warm Homes Discount - the £140 that many low-income households and pensioners already get taken off their winter fuel bills. The discount could be increased and offered to more people.
At the moment though, experts are only speculating about what the government will do.
There are things that we can do ourselves to tackle the energy price increases. For example:
Low-income households that are struggling NOW with energy costs can apply for a £250 grant from the council. Go to: https://beta.bathnes.gov.uk/apply-energy-top-grant-household-support-fund
If you are on a low income or are a pensioner, make sure that you are getting the Warm Homes Discount if you are entitled to it. According to Age UK, around 900,000 eligible pensioners are missing out. More information at: https://www.gov.uk/the-warm-home-discount-scheme
Be aware of ways to keep your house energy efficient - e.g. by using energy saving bulbs, draught excluder tape, thicker curtains to keep out the cold, a clothes horse instead of leaving things on radiators to dry, and switching unused appliances off.
Be aware of groups that offer general support. In Bath and North East Somerset, the Community Wellbeing Hub can help with lots of things like accessing food and getting advice on money and benefits. Call 0300 247 0050 or go to: https://communitywellbeinghub.co.uk/