Around 15,000 Braintree households will fall into fuel poverty after October, according to council forecasts.

This figure has been unveiled amid concerns in Essex that it is "quite hard to see anything optimistic" about energy price rise mitigation plans.

Tom Walker, who led the government's Cabinet Office Levelling Up Task Force before becoming Essex County Council's director for the economy, investment and public health in 2022, told a scrutiny committee at Braintree District Council that county energy data is "eyeball watering".

Around 23 per cent of households in Braintree district - around 15,000 - are forecast to fall into fuel poverty this winter following the 54 per cent energy price cap rise last April (2022).

The percentage of households forecast to fall into fuel poverty could rise again if the price cap is lifted by an estimated 65 per cent in October 2022.

Mr Walker said: "Winter 2022 is really eyeball watering in terms of its onward escalation of price.

"You look at the mitigations and it’s quite hard to see anything you can be optimistic about.

"I don’t want to scaremonger on this but we will all read broadsheet press and listen to intelligent media, and then when you see the market intelligence – and to some extent I am a layperson, I'm not an energy buyer – you think 'wow, this is really serious'."

He said that in Braintree, the elderly are particularly at risk of fuel poverty.

Around 97 per cent of elderly people who live alone and receive limited pension income are set to be affected if October's cap rise goes ahead.

Urban social renters are also at higher risk of falling into fuel poverty - with 96 per cent of Braintree residents in this category set to experience problems paying their bills.

Braintree District Council has said it has there are a number of ways it can help – including through the Essential Living Fund and discretionary housing payments.

Juli Rigby, Braintree District Council’s revenues, benefits and systems manager, said: "What we are seeing is the local housing allowances – which is what we base the housing benefit awards on – haven’t been increased since April 2020 and increases in rent levels that are being charged now are going up almost monthly.

"So we are seeing customers asking for support through discretionary housing support where they have previously been able to find that shortfall.

"Now they are having to spend that on household costs. We are seeing an increase in the discretionary housing payments we are making."

Cherie Root, corporate director at Braintree District Council, said members and officers are "looking at" more initiatives, such as a warm room scheme, which can be implemented once more cash lands in the council's bank accounts.