The news is full of headlines about soaring energy prices and families being plunged into fuel poverty.
Our Money Advice Officer Steven Higham has looked at what is happening and how WHA customers can keep their bills down
The cost of energy has risen significantly over the last year, and it shows no sign of slowing down.
And it is no wonder people are concerned.
The price of wholesale gas rose a massive 250% in 2021.
The energy price cap – the maximum suppliers can charge for gas – will rise 54% on April 1, adding a further £693 to an average household’s bills.
Homes with prepayment meters will be hit even harder with an increase of £708.
Homeowners will also feel the heat from their electricity provider as the UK’s electricity is, in part, generated by natural gas.
The Chancellor has announced all domestic electricity customers will receive a £200 discount on their bills from October to help with the price hikes. This discount will automatically be repaid from people’s bills in equal £40 instalments over the next five years.
People in council tax bands A to D will also get a £150 council tax rebate in April and Rishi Sunak has promised there will be £150m for local authorities in England to help lower income households.
Where we would normally advise customers to scour price comparison sites and switch supplier to lower bills, those better offers no longer exist.
As the prices have risen smaller providers have been forced out of business, pushing their customers onto higher tariffs with other companies and reducing competition in the market.
You should always check your current contract to be sure, but if you are on a fixed deal, it will most probably be the best you can hope for at the moment.
It might be worth looking at a higher fixed tariff now if you can afford it to protect you from future increases.
What customers can do
If you can’t make savings with a new tariff, it is time to look at ways to reduce energy use and increase efficiency to mitigate a huge jump in payments.
With these small actions from the Energy Saving Trust, a family can make a dent in the extra costs:
- Switch off anything that is on standby
- Turn the thermostat down by one degree
- Draught-proof windows and doors
- Use washing machine more efficiently – lower the temperature and only use when there is full load
- Avoid tumble drying when possible
- Have showers instead of baths and keep them short
- Only run dishwashers when full
- Don’t overfill kettles
- Top up insulation on water tanks, pipes and radiators.
Aside from energy consumption, it might also be an opportune moment to review your general household budget to see if savings could be made elsewhere to help free up some money ready for the expected price hikes in April.
In the case of an emergency where you cannot afford to pay your energy bills or top up your prepayment meter, you might be able to take advantage of help offered by the government and energy suppliers.
Warrington Council’s Local support scheme offers emergency energy vouchers but the funding is very limited. A WHA resident who had no money at all given a £40 top-up on his electric. It was a lifeline get him through until his Universal Credit payment arrived.
As a general rule, it always worthwhile ensuring you are in receipt of all the benefits to which you are entitled. This benefits calculator will demonstrate if there is any more help available.
How WHA can help
If you are having difficulty affording your energy bills, please contact us. We have helped many WHA residents with advice and practical support on debt, benefits, and budgeting.