700,000 London families plunged into fuel poverty

Demonstration outside Parliament against the cut to Universal Credit – now those on benefits will be hit harder with massive fuel price increases

THREE quarters of a million families in London will be plunged into fuel poverty after energy bills spiral by as much as 50% in April when the price cap is re-evaluated, a new report by the Resolution Foundation warns.

The research shows that the number of London households in fuel poverty is set to treble to almost 700,000.

The Resolution Foundation uses the term ‘fuel stress’ which is when more than 10% of a family’s income is spent on gas and electric bills.

The steep rise, caused by the jump in the energy price cap from £1,277 to nearer £2,000 in April, comes amid concerns over soaring inflation and plans to hike National Insurance by 1.25 percentage points.

Jonny Marshall, Senior Economist at the Resolution Foundation, said: ‘Rising gas prices are causing energy bills to soar, and will see the number of families suffering from “fuel stress” across London almost treble overnight to 690,000 families this summer.’

Marshall called on the Tory government to take more action to avoid the upcoming rise in energy bills ‘turning into a cost of living catastrophe for hundreds of thousands of families across the capital.’

According to the research, more than a quarter of households in England will find their gas and electricity bills unaffordable when the price cap rises. Fuel stress is likely to be highest in the northeast and West Midlands, at 33 per cent and 32 per cent.

Labour and some Tory MPs are urging the government to cut VAT on energy bills to help ease the pressure on household budgets.

And while Chancellor Rishi Sunak is weighing up further measures to help support struggling families, ministers insist plans to raise the National Living wage and the Universal Credit taper, along with the Warm Homes Discount, will help ease the pressure.

The Resolution Foundation argues this doesn’t go far enough, and calls for a faster uprating of benefits along with a more generous Warm Homes Discount which, it says, should rise from £140 to nearer £300.

In one example, 54-year old Thelma Spalding is freezing in her own home because she cannot afford to keep the heating on.

She goes round her house every evening trying to switch off every appliance.

It’s not an easy feat for the 54-year old, who relies on carers and walks with a stick.

But she’s following the advice given to her by her energy company as she desperately tries to keep her fuel bills down.

Thelma had to leave her job as an NHS support worker a year ago after being assaulted at work. Since then, her monthly gas and electricity bill has shot up from £44 to £99, meaning she can only afford to heat one room.

She has burns on her arms from trying to keep her wood burner going and has started using food banks to make ends meet.

She says: ‘I live in this one room. There’s only me and the dogs, so why am I being charged this much for electricity and gas?

‘In bed you’re so cold that it’s like you’re sleeping outside. My carer gets me dressed and I wear two pairs of leggings, a pair of trousers, a vest, a T-shirt and a dress – and I’m in the house. It’s so cold in the kitchen and the bathroom.’