PUBLIC sector union Unison yesterday reiterated its call for the government to take action to tackle fuel poverty.
It was responding to Scottish and Southern Energy (SSE) becoming the third major UK energy supplier to announce double digit price increases.
Scottish and Southern announced that its household electricity bills will increase by an average 11 per cent, and its household gas bills by an average of 18 per cent, from September 14.
It is estimated this will see the average bill for an SSE dual fuel customer rise by £171 to £1,265.
The move comes after British Gas said earlier this month that the cost of its electricity and gas will go up from August 18.
Another of the big six energy suppliers, Scottish Power, announced price rises last month, with gas going up by 19 per cent from the start of next month, and electricity rising by ten per cent.
The energy firms are blaming a 30 per cent increase in wholesale energy prices.
Unison General Secretary Dave Prentis said: ‘5.5 million households are already locked into the misery of fuel poverty, and this round of price increases will only make matters worse.
‘But just as families need action from the government to protect them, they are being left out in the cold.
‘This government is drastically cutting, then shutting down the Warm Front Scheme.
‘This scheme helps families make their homes more energy efficient – our only real hope of easing fuel poverty. It must be brought back to life, along with a package of measures to end this misery.
‘Let’s nail the lie that we are all in this together. Whilst bankers are still getting £14 billion in bonuses in a year, those at the bottom are seeing the help they need being taken away.’
Last week, energy watchdog Consumer Focus warned that five million UK households now spent more than ten per cent of their total income on energy bills, which is classed as being in fuel poverty.
Consumer Focus estimates that the number of homes in fuel poverty will rise to nearly six and a half million households if all of the big six energy providers raise their prices.
Commenting on the Scottish and Southern price hikes, Mike O’Connor, chief executive of Consumer Focus, said yesterday: ‘This increase heaps more pressure onto already cash-strapped consumers and will tip many thousands more people into fuel poverty.’
He added: ‘Suppliers point to rising wholesale costs. Yet although wholesale prices have risen recently, they remain around a third lower than their 2008 peak.’