Sunday, 18 November 2012

A third of people say they are having difficulties

paying their gas and electricity bills

That is the conclusion of a poll carried out for the Energy Saving Trust (EST), which also found that one in six people earning between £35,000 and £55,000 a year say they are struggling with gas and electricity bills
While one in seven of those polled said they would take a second job or work overtime to pay their bills, just 3 per cent would turn to an energy-saving helpline or website for advice.
EST Chief Executive Phillip Sellwood said: "Our survey shows that everyone is feeling the pinch, no matter whether their salary is £15,000 or £55,000.

"Our message is that taking short-term measures, such as cutting out that lunchtime latte, is not the answer; it's treating the symptoms, but not the cause."

The EST says becoming more energy efficient - by turning off electrical appliances when they are not being used, for example - could save people £280 a year.

The poll follows the furore surrounding David Cameron's pledge in parliament last week that the government would force the energy companies to give their customers the cheapest available deal.
He said at prime minister's questions on 17 October: "I can announce that we will be legislating so that energy companies have to give the lowest tariff to their customers."

He was accused by Labour of making up policy on the hoof, and the following day, Energy Minister John Hayes told the Commons the forthcoming energy bill would be used to "get people lower tariffs". But he did not repeat Mr Cameron's assertion that it would ensure people were put on the "lowest" tariffs.

Earlier this month, Npower announced it was raising gas and electricity prices by 8.8 per cent and 9.1 per cent respectively. This followed the decision by British Gas to hike its prices by an average £80 a year. Scottish and Southern Energy is also raising its prices by an average 9 per cent.

The EST poll of 2,000 people, carried out by Ipsos Mori to mark Big Energy Saving Week, also found that more people worry about their utility bills than their mortgages or childcare costs, with 14 per cent of people paying more than £1,500 a year for their gas and electricity.

While 42 per cent of people would talk to family or friends if they were having difficulties, 37 per cent would lend money to those closest to them.

Phillip Selwood said: "There are still many free offers of help for loft and cavity wall insulation no matter what your income is. But our overriding concern is that those who are 'struggling in the dark' are not speaking to anyone about their fuel bill problems."

EST figures show that half of all properties in the UK - around 13 million - have under-insulated lofts. Six million homes have uninsulated cavity walls, but the owners of four million homes have taken advantage of grants and offers to insulate their lofts and cavity walls.

The different tariffs charged by the power companies can be confusing. By default, energy users are usually put on what is called the "standard" tariff, which is rarely a company's cheapest rate.
The consumer organisation Which? wants companies to make their charges easier to understand.

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