Energy prices: Sheffield MP and charity condemn utility bill price rise which could "force families into debt"
Utility bill prices are set to rise for thousands of households across Sheffield later this year, the UK’s energy regulator has announced.
Prices will rise by at least £139 to a record high from the beginning of October.
Customers on default tariffs paying by direct debit will see the sharpest jump in prices since the cap was introduced, taking average bills to £1,277, Watchdog Ofgem said.
But concerns have been raised by charities and officials across Sheffield, who fear the rise in prices will push many families who are already struggling over the edge financially.
Clive Betts, Labour MP for Sheffield South East, says something must be done to put a halt to the move which he believes will leave some people unable to afford to live.
He told The Star: “This is a real worry for people on low incomes who have already had a very difficult few months with all the Covid measures.
“This massive energy price rise will really hit them and I am worried they will not have enough money to afford basic necessities like food and rent.
“It is coming at a time when families are already losing income with furlough payments about to stop and changes to universal credit. We really need the Government to step in and make sure this doesn’t happen.
“Families are going to be forced into debt and into serious financial difficulty. Something must be done.”
The increase has been driven by a rise of more than 50% in energy costs over the last six months, with gas prices hitting a record high as inflation jumped amid the easing of pandemic restrictions, Ofgem said.
The regulator reviews the price cap once every six months, and changes it based on the cost that suppliers have to pay for their energy, cost of policies and operating costs, among other things.
Sheffield charity the Terminus Initiative, based in Lowedges, says many of its service users have already voiced their worries about being able to afford the payments.
Community outreach manager Elaine Hollings said: “We think this is absolutely disgusting and is going to affect a lot of people, especially people in Lowedges and the surrounding areas.
“People’s energy use has gone up through no fault of their own. They have been made to stay at home for months through lockdown and then self-isolation and working from home, which has pushed up their bills.
“People have been lonely and have had the television on all day just for some company but now they are terrified they won’t be able to afford other things because of it.
“How can they put the prices up when they are cutting furlough and other payments that people rely on? More should have been done to make sure it didn’t get to this stage.
“The people who come to our coffee mornings and use our services are so worried and anxious and it just isn’t fair.”
The new rate will come into force from October 1 for customers on their supplier’s default tariffs but customers are being urged to switch suppliers in a bid to save money.
Looking through a comparison site and choosing a fixed tariff could save customers hundreds of pounds per year.