Electricity and gas bills in typical UK households will go up more than 50 per cent because of a rise in the energy price cap, the maximum charge suppliers can make to customers.
The government is attempting to mitigate the impact of this on people’s budgets by granting a one-off £150 rebate on Council Tax bills for those living in lower value homes (Bands A to D) and in October there will be a further £200 off energy bills, although this has to be paid back over five years.
However there will still be heating and power bills to pay which are hundreds of pounds higher than normal - a huge challenge in particular for the 2,300 Melton borough households considered to be fuel poor.
Melton and District Money Advice Centre (MADMAC), which has helped more than 1,000 people in the Melton area with debt problems in the five years it has been running say they expect to be supporting even more people as fuel bills soar this year.
Founder and manager of the charity, Amanda Heath, told the Melton Times: “We are the busiest we have ever been and the number of local people accessing our help continues to increase.
“The current fuel crisis is something that a lot of our clients are struggling with.
“Debt advice has changed over the years and more and more clients are living in negative budgets as they simply do not have enough income to cover basic essential bills such as fuel.
“This is set to get worse as the year goes on.
“We are here to help so I would encourage anyone who is struggling and fearful to get in touch and do not struggle alone.”
Melton Borough Council’s recently-published ‘Housing Strategy 2021-2026’ document outlines the challenges many residents in the area have with paying bills to heat and power their homes.
It states: “In the Melton borough over 2,300 households are officially considered fuel poor, that is 10.8 per cent of all households, which is in line with the regional average.
“These statistics are likely to underestimate the total number of households who struggle with their energy costs, many low income households struggle with the cost of living and would significantly benefit from lower energy costs as would a number of moderate income households with very high energy costs, that take up a large proportion of their total income.”
Councillors have pledged to make homes more energy efficient in the coming years through their housing strategy - with 7.8 per cent of properties with the lowest efficiency ratings compared to the England average of only 4.6 per cent.
The inefficient use of energy means more money is spent on heating a home and poor insulation can mean it is still not sufficiently warm for those who live there.
Fuel poverty is more prevalent in rural areas of the borough, according to the figures in the council’s housing strategy document, with 12.7 cent of household falling into this category compared with 8.8 per cent in the town of Melton Mowbray.
This represents 1,300 rural households being considered fuel poor in the borough with an average cost gap - the difference between income and heating costs - is a concerning £585.
Fuel poverty is more marked in rural areas, in particular in Croxton Kerrial and Wymondham, partly because there is a higher proportion of older and less energy efficient properties there.
l Anyone who is struggling with paying their fuel bills or enduring other debt problems is invited to visit the MADMAC website at www.madmacmoney.co.uk or to call the charity on 07775 942046.
There is a free budget planner on the website as well which is aimed at being a good starting point for people concerned about their bills.