New research reveals 10% of people have already defaulted on energy bills
Soaring fuel bills are leading to acute power rationing among many families as one in four say they are skipping meals to meet fuel costs. The “heat or eat” dilemma is becoming one of the most toxic issues for the coalition as it battles to convince the public it is on their side when it comes to curbing the power of the energy giants.
A new poll of 2,000 people by Onepoll for Ovo Energy reveals that over a third of homes are rationing power. The energy company claims inflation-busting rises of up to 12% have left 70% of British homes forced to limit their power consumption. There are concerns more families are at an increased risk of becoming ill as a result of switching off their heating.
Ovo’s research suggests one in ten families have already defaulted on their energy bills, while a further 14.5% claim they will be unable to pay this winter. Over a fifth of families have even begun wearing outdoor clothing such as hats, coats and scarves indoors to keep warm, along with over a quarter who drape themselves in blankets to avoid turning on the heating.
The latest figures show the average dual fuel power bill has now hit a record £1,318 prompting families to cut back. A quarter – 23.7% – of the 2,000 people polled said they had been forced to ration food in order to meet the costs of their energy bills. And almost one in 10 admitted they could no longer afford to buy Christmas gifts for their family.
One in 13 people said they had begun to get into debt to meet their energy bills, with no long-term plan to pay it back.
Figures collected by the Citizens Advice Bureau claim 38% of people would cut back on food shopping to pay for other household bills.
“Heat or eat is a very real question for many of our clients,” CAB chief executive Gillian Guy said. “We have serious concerns about the impact that this will have on people on low incomes. Citizens Advice saw over 95,000 fuel debt problems last year and we regularly hear stories of people only heating one room or parents only heating their house when their children are home.”
Last week the government published its long-awaited Energy Bill that will allow energy companies to charge households an extra £7.6bn, money that will go towards low-carbon electricity infrastructure. The advisory committee on climate change estimates this will add about £110 to the average household energy bill by 2020.