Keep Us Warm This Winter campaign: Preston families face stark choice due to energy price hikes

Preston families could be facing the choice between eating or heating this winter - as energy price hikes are already falling onto their doormats.

Wednesday, 22nd September 2021, 10:24 am

The price of wholesale gas has surged by 250 per cent since the beginning of the year, and an added 70 per cent since just August, according to figures from Oil & Gas UK.

Today, the Lancashire Post, along with our sister titles across JPI Media, is launching our Keep Us Warm This Winter campaign, calling on the Government to ensure all necessary steps are taken to protect consumers, particularly the vulnerable and those low incomes.

The soar in prices comes as the economy opens up from its Covid lows, demand for gas in Asia grows, and several gas platforms in the North Sea have closed to perform maintenance that was paused during the pandemic.

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Energy prices are set to rise

According to Bloomberg, calmer wind speeds during the past month has meant more gas has been needed to produce electricity, after output was cut from some 11,000 wind turbines in the UK - responsible for around 20 per cent of electricity production.

Energy regulator Ofgem said consumers can expect an average price rise of £135 this winter - and some much more.

The price hikes could force some families over the poverty line, and letters from providers are already landing on doormats bearing the bad news.

Hospital nurse and mum-of-two Lorna Hardman, who lives in Leyland with her partner and four children said the rise in wages does not currently reflect the cost of living and household bills.

Chris Murray, founder of the Preston-based organisation Here For Humanity, says working class people will be hit hardest

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Her bills are projected to increase by as much as £280 per year for both gas and electric, at a time when the three per cent increase in nurse wages, backdated to last April, was announced.

She said: “I have had a letter from my supplier in the last few months to say my bills will be going up. My electric is predicted to rise by £198 a year and my gas by £87 a year.

“We are a high usage household and our bills are already high every month. I think families on a lower income are going to really struggle because it is a lot of money and adds up.

Preston nurse Lorna Hardman is worried about the impending price rises and says her salary increase will barely keep pace with the rate of inflation

“For us it is frustrating because nurses haven’t been given a pay rise yet, and even when we do, it won’t reflect the cost of living. I will only be getting about 20 pence per hour extra. The pay rise will be less than the cost of living so it won’t actually help us.

“National Insurance is going up, benefits are being cut and gas and electricity is going up by huge amounts. As a family, we have noticed the monthly shopping has been going up because everything is more expensive.

“People need to be aware of what tariffs they are on and how much they are paying. When we first moved into this home, we stayed with a provider who offered a discounted tariff, but by the end of the contract we owed them £300.”

Chris Murray, the founder of Preston-based Here for Humanity organisation said he expects to see more families needing to use the food bank service as worries over paying bills continue.

Our Keep Us Warm This Winter campaign

He also lives at home with his partner Kirsty and three young children in Preston, and says the most vulnerable families in society will be hit hardest by the energy price hike.

He said: “Of course, the announcement of the Universal Credit cut was massive because so many people are already struggling day to day. £20 a week might not sound like a lot but it really is a huge amount for some families.

“With the announcement of increasing energy prices, the demand for food banks and our support will keep increasing. The pandemic brought awareness of the services that are available to people who are struggling.

“Working class families have just got used to struggling, which leads to more debt and financial worries. The most vulnerable are the ones plagued by the higher finance options and higher monthly outgoings.

“This is just another worry that will affect families across the country. People will be going cold because they won’t want to put the heating on, children will be going to school without the correct uniforms because it won’t have been washed and so many will continue to not eat so they can feed their children.”