As fuel bills soar, CAB gives advice on how to stay warm this winter

PUBLISHED: 16:41 09 November 2012

MORE households are expected to be plunged into fuel poverty by soaring energy bills this winter, and residents are being urged to make keeping warm a priority.

It is estimated that more than 1,600 households in the district are affected by fuel poverty – defined as when more than 10 per cent of a household’s income is spent on keeping warm – which is one of the highest rates in Essex.

And it is a trend that is not set to change with the combination of static salaries and hikes in the cost of energy by the major suppliers.

Kate Robson, manager of Uttlesford Citizen Advice Bureau, described fuel poverty as a serious issue in Uttlesford, particularly with a lot of people reliant on liquid fuel.

“There are some things everyone should be doing to save money,” she advises. “Make sure you’re on the best tariff, use actual readings instead of estimate, and be prepared to change provider or ask them if you’re on the best tariff.

“It’s a tough time but residents need to make sure they keep warm.”

Last week EDF Energy became the fifth major energy firm to announce a price rise, putting average prices up 10.8 per cent, following in the footsteps of its competitors.

Npower said it would increase gas prices by 8.8 per cent and electricity 9.1 per cent while British Gas – who reported a £345 million profit in the first half of this year – also increased prices by an average of six per cent.

The website uswitch.com, which helps consumers change energy suppliers, says in the UK 314,000 households will become fuel poor because of the latest increases.

In a bid to help residents in rural communities through the expected cold snap, the Rural Community Council of Essex (RCCE) launched a ‘Community Oil Buying Scheme’ earlier this year.

Nick Shuttleworth, executive director of RCCE, said: “This scheme aims to make cheaper heating oil available in rural areas, where a considerable proportion of households – over 40 per cent in Uttlesford – have no access to mains gas.”

Membership costs £20 a year and RCCE has seen individuals save as much as £53 per 1,000 litres of oil ordered. Membership is also open to community organisations, such as village halls and and businesses.

Visit essexrcc.org.uk/oil for details.

For help with your energy bills call the Home Heat Helpline on 0800 336699.

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