Heating bills concern 38% of UK population, survey suggests

Person adjusting a thermostatic radiator valve More than half of those polled have cut their energy use in the face of rising bills

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More than a third of people in the UK say they are concerned about paying for their heating bills this winter, a BBC Radio 5 live survey has suggested.

It found 25% of people had put up with "unacceptably cold" homes in the past year as they struggle to pay bills.

And 63% of the 1,035 adults surveyed said they had cut their energy use because of rising costs.

Ministers said they were taking action to help consumers but Labour said fuel poverty had risen under the coalition.

ComRes conducted the interviews by telephone between 30 August and 1 September 2013.

Almost three-quarters believe the UK's energy costs are unreasonable, and 69% said the firms should be nationalised.

While there was support for renewable energy resources in principle - 84% would welcome more solar panels in their area - the prospect of reducing energy prices was also important.

Start Quote

The aims of energy policy are easy to state: energy supplies should be reliable, affordable and clean - achieving them... has never been harder”

End Quote Prof Steve Thomas Energy policy expert, University of Greenwich

Some 67% of people said they would support more coal, oil and gas stations being built in the UK if it brought energy prices down.

Overall, 38% of those surveyed said they were concerned about how they will pay for their heating bills.

An even higher percentage of people in the North West, West Midlands, East Midlands, Yorkshire and Humberside, and Northern Ireland said it was a concern.

People in social grade DE were the most likely to say that they have cut their energy usage, are concerned about how they will pay their bills and have put up with cold temperatures.

'Scary bill'

Jean Clements, from Denton, Greater Manchester, said she has struggled to pay the "spiralling" energy bills since her mechanic husband took a pay cut.

The 39-year-old, who gave up work to look after their five-year-old son, said they got into debt with British Gas at Christmas and they have since installed payment meters.

"It took three months to install them, so we ended up about £700 in debt. At the moment, we are having to pay about £40 a week, £20 in each meter, and it's difficult to maintain.

Cheaper bills

Advice from the Energy Saving Trust:

  • Insulate your hot water cylinder. Could save up to £60 a year
  • Get an eco-shower head. Some water companies are giving them away free; could save you up to £75 a year
  • Swap halogen spot lights with new LED bulbs. Replacing all traditional bulbs with energy saving versions can save £60 a year

Make more energy savings

"Pre-paid meters are about 7% dearer but the benefit is you are not going to get any scary quarterly bill or a bounced direct debit."

She is worried about the onset of winter, especially if it is a harsh one.

"The government needs to be able to work a bit more with Ofgem to regulate the prices and the profits the energy suppliers are making," she said.

"I don't expect handouts. We are a hard-working family but it would be nice if we could get the energy bills reduced."

Vulnerable households

Shadow energy secretary Caroline Flint told BBC Radio 5 live the government's energy strategy was a "disgrace".

She says the government's own figures on the fuel poverty gap - the difference between what households with high energy bills pay out for gas and electricity and the official poverty line - show it has increased by more than 12% in the last two years.

Chart showing BBC survey results on energy use

"This is yet more evidence that David Cameron's failure to get tough with the energy giants has pushed millions of vulnerable households even deeper into fuel poverty," she said.

"It is a disgrace that this government has cut help for people in fuel poverty at the same time as giving millionaires a tax cut."

Energy Secretary Ed Davey said Labour's failure to invest in energy had led to a "massive cost pressure" on bills.

"With our emphasis on competition, on helping vulnerable consumers directly and with our energy efficiency policies, the coalition is delivering in difficult times for people, when Labour failed to deliver in easy times," he said.

The Department of Energy and Climate Change added it was determined to tackle what it called the "scourge" of fuel poverty.

"Two million households received cuts to their bills last winter under the Warm Home Discount and the budget will continue to increase each year, up to £320m for 2015-16," a spokesman said.

The government was also pressing the energy firms to make sure low-income households were not stuck on high tariffs, he said.

The survey was commissioned to mark BBC Radio 5 live's Energy Day. Programmes will be transmitted from a temporary studio powered by renewables, including solar panels, wind turbines and exercise bikes connected to the electricity grid, and feature discussions about all aspects of the energy industry.

Listen to special reports on the UK's energy future as part of 5 live's Energy Day and follow the live blog


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  • rate this

    Comment number 193.

    Allth e hundred of complaints preceding this post about needing renationalising, just shows what a waste of a decade the New Labour party were. If they had renationalised Rail & the Utilities & built the Nuclear power stations we needed in '97, they would be working now, and all those moaning would be happy. Instead it was all about 'Human rights', Mass Immigration, and the NHS'.

  • rate this

    Comment number 192.

    Dave - there is a reason for the environmental/social part of the your bill. Ironically, this allowed for the costs of your 'free' solar panels. We must reduce our pollution (which ironically again is linked to our purchase of energy from Russia, middle east etc) - measured in tonnes of 'carbon'. As a result, energy companies utilise funding (ECO) to retrofit homes. This is paid for in our bills.

  • rate this

    Comment number 191.

    Thatcher is dead, now is the time to re-nationalise these industries,

    Those calling for re-nationalisations are in cloud cookoo land. The public sector couldn't organise a p*** up in a brewery, what should be spent on investment will go on hospitals instead and the Unions will be back holding the country to ransom so their members can have better pensions than everyone else.

  • rate this

    Comment number 190.

    It's okay cause the helpful chaps at TV limited have shown us through Bear Grylls that we could reduce our heating bills by going and finding a dead sheep, skinning it and wearing it like a coat :)

    Thanks bear. Useful advice for the modern world.

  • rate this

    Comment number 189.

    @Joyanblu - shame you were forced to pay for it, there are companies offering it for free at the moment. I've just had it fitted from a company called a shade greener.
    Its never free, those companies are then paid by the state and therefore you had it done on other peoples taxes.

  • rate this

    Comment number 188.

    The only way I can see bills coming down is by investing in alternatives for the supply of gas and electricity. I don't see how re-nationalising will help, it'd just shift more burden on to the government and no doubt more tax for "infrastructure investment"
    However, I don't see cutting energy usage as a bad thing. So what if I feel cold? At least that leaves more energy available for the future.

  • rate this

    Comment number 187.

    i had isulatuion new doors and windows put in and prices still keep going up so absolute rubbish that being mor efficient saves you money, no my bills are almost 50% higher than 2011, then Mps talkabout competition but and changinfg supplier--- i tried to save £80 per year but found i would be charged £150 to change supplier, so what is the point in changing, ofgem said tough they do not care

  • rate this

    Comment number 186.

    @165 is_it_just_me_or

    Council house tenants have their heating included in their rent?

    Really? What council does this?

    @178 Have your say Rejected

    I was thinking the same thing, if only my council did this

  • rate this

    Comment number 185.

    I think we all have to face the fact that for decades we've allowed the seeds of a rip off culture to grow & mature regarding various things such as utilities that we simply can't exist without in the 'society' we've allowed to flourish. It's a shame we can't dig up some of the dead politicians & shout at them that they were completely wrong or simply just plain LIARS!

  • rate this

    Comment number 184.

    it wont matter how many more generaters you build, so long as theyre in the hands of private companies, profits will always come first.

    Instead of spending billions invading other countries , how about spending billions on a national power grid

  • rate this

    Comment number 183.

    High energy bills
    Cut down use
    Energy bills increase

    Repeat as necessary

    Something has to give

  • rate this

    Comment number 182.

    As a citizen of any country you are a share holder in its operation. Its first obligation should be the well-fair of its share holders (citizens). I think many politicians forget that they are working for you and not for their egotistical selves who feather their own nest. Have you ever meet a poor politician?

  • rate this

    Comment number 181.

    Thatcher is dead, now is the time to re-nationalise these industries,
    And bring back to the people the basic energy needs that could not be owned by profit hungry companies.

  • rate this

    Comment number 180.

    15% of your electricity bill is "environmental and social tax". Notice how there's no mention of THAT in this article... (source: downloaded PDF from british gas - my latest bill)

    @Joyanblu - shame you were forced to pay for it, there are companies offering it for free at the moment. I've just had it fitted from a company called a shade greener.

  • rate this

    Comment number 179.

    Most of us have concerns over the cost of heating our homes. I just wish politicians and environmentalists would stop lying to the public: They tell us to cut our power use. All good stuff but, power suppliers are profit making concerns, so if we use less power, unit costs will rise, so we all end up paying more. It is a vicious circle. Maybe capping unit costs would help us the consumer.

  • rate this

    Comment number 178.

    165. is_it_just_me_or

    "council house tenants have their heating included in their rent; where is the incentive to be fuel-efficient?"

    So council tenants are irresponsible? I am a council tenant and our heating bills are not included in the rent. In fact we have to use the more expensive meters.

  • rate this

    Comment number 177.

    My father has reminded me a number of times of how his bedroom window in winter months when he was young (approx 60 years ago) had ice on the inside. The solution: wear more clothes.

  • rate this

    Comment number 176.

    I'm dreading wintertime. I have only a tiny private pension, and what's in my bank account, to live on for another two years, before I can draw the Government OAP. There is a limit to how many coats you can wear in the house!
    Yes, I could go back to work, but where am I to find a meaningful job, with a sensible wage, for two years, for an old bloke? No chance, around here - without travelling.

  • rate this

    Comment number 175.

    This house was cold throughout last winter. Not so bad for me as I exercise more when it's cold, but watching my poor mum sitting in a scarf, woolen socks and jumper all day was not pleasant. We cannot afford to heat our home. Forget Syria and immigration. Want my vote Cameron? Then stop the energy providers from robbing us all!

  • rate this

    Comment number 174.


    ...the council house tenants have their heating included in their rent...
    Really??? if this s this true we're all doomed.


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