What the government needs to do to bring down energy bills and tackle the cost of living crisis

'61% of people are already paying more for their energy bills than they did this time last year'.

A photo of coins on top of an article explaining that Energy companies are raising prices

Matthew McGregor, CEO, 38 Degrees, & Myles Cummins, Campaigner,  38 Degrees

Household finances in this country are at breaking point. The cost of living crisis has hit the pockets of millions, with energy bills rocketing to record highs – and set to soar higher if the price cap is lifted in a few weeks.  To be able to heat your home and put food on your table for yourself and your family should not be considered a luxury. Yet this winter of discontent shows little sign of ending without strong measures designed to help those who are barely getting by. That’s why the 38 Degrees community are demanding urgent government action.

Combined with wage stagnation and the fallout from the pandemic, the effect of inflation has been disastrous for working people around the country. Polling we released yesterday, carried out by Survation on 38 Degrees’ behalf, reveals that 1 in 5 people who have seen their bills rise say they are skipping meals to pay for their energy – and this will rise to 1 in 3 if energy prices rise as predicted in April. And that’s not all. Our polling shows:

  • 61% of people are already paying more for their energy bills than they did this time last year. For those whose bills have risen:
  • 1 in 4 are going into their overdraft
  • 65% are cutting down on how much they use their heating
  • With bills set to rise again in April:
  • 70% of all respondents said they’ll cut down on their heating
  • 29% said they’ll fall behind on other bills
  • 1 in 3 will have to skip meals to pay for energy bills

The 38 Degrees community has been busy making the case for urgent government action on this.

With further price increases on the way, households are crying out for the government to step in and alleviate the constant financial pressures that they find themselves under, and together the 38 Degrees community is making this issue impossible to ignore: From an ad van touring Rishi Sunak’s constituency demanding a windfall tax to large scale consumer action we’re revealing today.

39,264 people within our supporter community have responded to a consultation from government energy regulator Ofgem displaying their despair at the current situation, with a whopping 97% of our respondents rejecting any potential price cap. Making thousands of our voices heard by the government’s official regulator is a huge step forward  and one that is so vital, as we hear the human cost of the cost of living crisis from people across the country.

“My energy company went bust with my affordable fixed rate deal – my only choice is now only turn heating on when extremely cold and my son using an oil filled radiator to heat his room as he is studying whilst I am leaving the house to work in a key job to try and keep within my monthly direct debit energy spend. I am submitting energy readings every week so that I can monitor my spend – I can’t make any more financial cutbacks as we live carefully so there are no easy ways to save money in ways they suggest – I don’t buy takeaway coffee or takeaway food, I don’t go on holidays, I shop in budget supermarkets- – I am now using air fryer rather than turn oven on!! I work and have managed to survive as a single mum for the last 13 years but now it’s getting worse” – Sian,Caerphilly

I am retired but not yet in receipt of state pension because I wasn’t informed the age had been raised to 66. I have recently got 2 part time jobs at the age of 65. My husband is disabled and can no longer work, but having been self-employed for 30 years is not entitled to any benefits. I have taken out 2 credit cards and 3 bank loans to survive. I dread to think what is coming. I have worked for over 40 years and should be comfortable in retirement, but I am not.”- Julia, Newcastle

“My energy company was one of those which folded at the end of September. The cheapest deal I could get is 40% dearer than I was previously paying. As an unpaid carer for my son, I am reliant on benefits. I am now spending almost 25% of my meagre income on energy.” Isabel, Aberdeen

I work as a carer with elderly people in their own homes and already feel that their homes are cold as they keep the heating very low so that they can afford to pay their bills. Hospitals are already in crisis with the Covid-19 admissions, elderly people are admitted with hypothermia it will cripple the NHS. The people I care for deserve better and some of them will not survive the winter if they can’t afford heat.” – Lorna, Birkenhead

Over the coming weeks Shell and BP are due to publish their huge profit margins, which have no doubt been bolstered significantly by British households. While smaller energy providers have folded, the big companies have seized the opportunity to squeeze consumers to the tune of billions of pounds.

So we’re demanding a windfall tax on their above-average profits, which could help generate billions of pounds to provide a lifeline for millions of us in the coming months and fund much-needed investment in insulating homes and other eco-friendly measures. Our polling indicates that nearly 2 in 3 people (63%) support a Windfall tax, while Labour has already thrown their weight behind this call, and we hope the Tories follow suit. You can add your name to the petition here

The 38 Degrees’ message to the government is clear; Britain cannot afford any further cost of living increases, ordinary households cannot be forced to choose between heating and eating, and our leaders must act now to end this.

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