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 433.

    Labour stopped being Labour when they ditched Clause 4. This was a part of their "rule book" that said they were in favour of nationalisation and would do all they can to make it come about (to simplify it a bit). When they got rid of this it was obvious they were in the pay of big business just like the Tories and were no longer socialist.
    Bring back OLD Labour. The real Labour that made the NHS!

  • rate this

    Comment number 432.

    A few people are suggesting wearing more clothes. I do I look right sight in my long thermals hand knitted socks, cardi's, shawls fingerless gloves. Whilst this may afford some protection if you have a chest complaint breathing in the cold air exacerbates the condition and leads to illness. More clothing cannot protect you from this

  • rate this

    Comment number 431.

    i worked for the electricity board when it was nationalised. I can tell you that nationalisation ISNT the solution. They really knew how to spend (waste) your money!.... The UK may see the profit if nationalised, but they will also see the increased cost to run the organisations.

  • rate this

    Comment number 430.

    cant say to much, but searching the american patent website, and good luck to you in your searching, took a long time for me,(months) to sort out the chaff,but a free energy (electricity) device does exist and is patented and owned intirely by a private company.probably i think to be rolled out when the oil dries up.but by then wont be free.enough said.

  • rate this

    Comment number 429.

    No matter how frugal we try to be with heating, lighting etc. the bills seem to increase.

  • rate this

    Comment number 428.

    I give up !

    someone quotes a price for electricty in France as evidence that we are being ripped off and when I show it is 50% higher than the UK and I get rated down

    do you not understand numbers?

  • rate this

    Comment number 427.

    Is allowing 10,000 to 20,000 people a year to die needlessly from cold in UK, any worse than chemical weapons in Syria loss of a few hundred.

    Maybe No 10 should be targeted for state sanctioned genocide + add rising deaths from polution - chemicals

  • rate this

    Comment number 426.

    As the world's population continues to grow so rapidly, we must exploit more and more energy to satisfy everyone's needs, and to pay for it, the price of this precious resource can only continue to rise.

  • rate this

    Comment number 425.

    When I was young, almost every home was without double-glazing, roof and wall insulation or central heating.

    We couldn't afford regular deliveries of coal or coke to heat the living room, and windows had ice on the inside in cold weather, especially in the 1962-63 winter. I dressed and undressed in bed, and everyone wore lots of pullovers, gloves, etc. Do today's softies have any resilience?

  • rate this

    Comment number 424.

    So 69% want renationalisation of energy. One cant help thinking if this was a Rightwing subject it would be policy within a few years. Miliband you might have done right over Syria but you have a long long long way to go on domestic issues. Many Brits now fear private companies, Banks and the City more than terrorism. Do something.

    'Savage and brutal' cuts, to the cost of living please.

  • rate this

    Comment number 423.

    418. Diddleypete
    I cant believ someone could use that much juice!

    If as he says he has been unable to pay some months, most companies will charge these customers at a higher rate.

  • rate this

    Comment number 422.

    Now where does the thick end of your energy costs go.. ?
    ANS: The Govt. 25% inc VAT"

    That's a lie. VAT is 5% and environmental levies between 4% and 11%.

    "in the 'belief' CO2 will keep us all nice & toasty"

    The laws of physics are not a "belief" [as in faith, rather than evidence, based belief system]. Unlike your belief system. Bit like your 25% going to the government!

  • rate this

    Comment number 421.

    Massive houses paying little for their fuel proportionally to their income being subsidized by the masses who are under paid & over charged to give some freedoms they deny others so they can keep their privilege

    Flat earth economic followers do not understand the gravity of their situation

    More & more the propaganda falls on deaf ears it goes on but people are no longer taking any notice

  • rate this

    Comment number 420.

    husband has axe and supply of furniture people throw out. burnt loads of ikea beds. January is full of discarded chrimbo trees. parts of the flat are curtained off to keep heat in and draughts out

  • rate this

    Comment number 419.

    I know we can not all afford it but where you can please invest in Solar, I did last year and it cost me around £5100

    So far this year with 1 quarter to go I have had around £320 from my solar generation, I would expect it to be around £430 for the year in total, that has virtually wiped out 60% of my electricity bill for the whole year so not bad and the way they keep putting up prices i'm ok

  • rate this

    Comment number 418.

    138.Solarized Sod
    £200.00 a month????? even with the fact you cant pay some months, how the hell do you use £2,400.00 of electricity a year in a 1 bed flat??
    Either you are running far to much equipment, which asks the question reduce your useage, or, you are being robbed. I cant believ someone could use that much juice!

  • rate this

    Comment number 417.

    The good old days of nationalization when most people could afford to get from A to B,Now a great first class because it empty all but fair jumpers like osbourne,& pack impoverished 2nd cattle class,were shareholders wave from their planes at the plebs jammed in or stuck on the platform waiting to be herded

  • rate this

    Comment number 416.

    We all know that there is not enough to go round, unlike a time in the past.

    WAKE UP.

    Increasing demand and diminishing resources IS NOT SUSTAINABLE.

  • rate this

    Comment number 415.

    Some people seem to think that re-nationalisation would mean a return to 1970's politics - did they miss the 1980's and Maggie Thatcher!

  • rate this

    Comment number 414.

    Yes just seize them from the owners! They were ours in the first place and I don't recall Thatcher compensating me for my share of it when it was nationalised without my consent!"

    You never owned parts of public companies - public ownership doesn't work that way.

    And of course you agree that anything you do own can be seized from you by the authorities, right? I'll bet NOT!


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