Household Bills, Utilities, Winter Fuel & Council Tax
Right now, I understand the number one issue on people's minds is the rising cost of energy bills and cost of living.
Although the Government has offered financial support through council tax rebates, this support will not be felt until April. In the meantime, I have listed a range of organisations offering financial advice to help get households through the winter months.
The Government has released the following factsheet which outlines current measures being taken to support the cost of living.
28% of North Devon residents do not have access to mains gas and live “off grid”. Most these properties rely on oil for heating, delivered in bulk and have seen prices sky rocket in recent weeks and many residents report not being able to secure a delivery at all.
Energy Minister, Greg Hands, has met with rural MPs to discuss the situation and provide more detail on the supply situation.
Reassuringly there is no supply issue at this time. There has been significant volatility in the market, with prices now having peaked, but some companies have a backlog of deliveries where customers rushed to order as the price rose. Suppliers are prioritising their most vulnerable customers, but deliveries should stabilise in the coming days.
Heating oil does not have a price cap so prices are subject entirely to the market (and it is important to note the price cap was never introduced to limit price rises in other energy supplies, but to protect customers from unscrupulous suppliers in a monopoly position). The advice from the industry body to manage the price consumers pay is:
- To shop around for the best price as it does vary on a daily basis
- To form a buying group with neighbours so you are able to order a bigger delivery, which will reduce the price
- Speak to your supplier about spreading the cost of a delivery onto a monthly basis
- Longer term, to decarbonise your heating, and likely as time goes on reduce your bills look into Hydrotreated Vegetable Oil (HVO) as an alternative supply – it costs about £500 to convert an oil system to HVO
Last week I also attended a dinner focused on how to make homes more energy efficient, hosted by NatWest and with guests from companies from Centrica to Citizens’ Advice, Shelter to the National Housebuilding Federation and as the world energy crisis rages on with little sign of abatement, I do hope residents will do everything they can to make their homes and businesses more energy efficient, and where they can take this focus on our energy use to switch to decarbonise as well as use devices such as smart meters to highlight which are the gadgets in our homes most likely to send our bills soaring.
British Gas have been doing everything they can to hold down the price of energy for their customers including freezing direct debit payments through the winter, and creating a £2m winter fund to provide energy grants to help some customers and their families this winter. Support includes:
- Priority Services Register – for households that need extra support, such as free annual gas safety checks.
- Sources of additional support – such as Citizens Advice and the Money Advice Service; as well as contact information for our customers.
- Assessing eligibility for grants through the British Gas Energy Trust (even if you’re not a British Gas customer) which offers energy debt advice and support.
- In December 2021, British Gas launched a £2m fund to help our most financially vulnerable customers who are struggling to pay their bills this winter.
To find out more information on their support, click here.
361 Community Energy is a not-for-profit company based locally in North Devon. With a mission to reduce carbon footprint, 361 offer free energy efficiency visit to local residents to reduce their fuel bills and help to access grants for loft insulation, wall insulation and new boilers.
To find out more information on home energy efficiency reviews, click here.
Citizens Advice offer a range of support and information on discount schemes and available financial support to help you through winter months.
Cold weather payments and Warm Home discount schemes can offer up to £140 off your electricity bill.
To find out if you are eligible for Winter Fuel Payments, Warm Home discount schemes, or are in debt to your energy provider and are looking for information on grants click here to find a compilation of Government and Energy Supplier advice.
The Fuel Bank Foundation offers a range of advice and services to help from help to apply for help to money saving tips.
Fair for You Enterprise CIC is an ethical lender, backed by leading charities and foundations, and the Government’s dormant assets scheme. We lend to some of the poorest people in the UK - the roughly 10 million who struggle to access mainstream credit, enabling them to quickly buy household essentials online. Retail partners include Argos, Currys, Habitat, Carpetright and Whirlpool
There is help available if you’re worried about your energy bills. Smart Energy GB have worked together to create a helpful advice guide.
If you are a prepay customer, having a smart meter allows you to set budget alerts and top up from home online, by text or with an app.
The in-home display will also show how much credit you have left.
Find out more here: https://www.smartenergygb.org/benefits-for-prepay-customers
Food Banks, Pantries and other Social Enterprises
To help mitigate the cost of living, there are a range of local services offering free support and advice as families may struggle with the cost of living.
One Northern Devon is a local partnership working to improve the wellbeing of the people of North Devon and Torridge, looking to tackle problems facing local residents such as unsuitable housing, poor employment prospects and social isolation.
This partnership offers one-to-one support to improve the health and wellbeing of all local residents.
North Devon Homes (NDH) is a registered charity providing a number of support services and a provider of affordable homes for those who need them.
As well as affordable housing, NDH offers many Independent Living Schemes to provide a safe and comforting community for over 55s to enjoy an independent way of living with available support. Click here to check the availability of Independent living Schemes as well as contact details and locations.
Anyone can reach crises point for a number of different reasons. Northern Devon Foodbank offers a range of supportive measures for those who need it, offering food up to 7 days of food parcels which can be organised in person or by phone. Foodbanks work using a voucher referral system to help provide you with the most appropriate help for your circumstances.
Foodbank volunteers are specially trained to know about local services and offer practical guidance to assist you to break out of crises point.
Further information including contact details and location can be found on their website by clicking here.
Encompass South West is an independent regional charity which provides a range of advice, information and support services to rural and remote services.
With a focus on homelessness, housing support and financial advice, if you need advice please seek support and advice as soon as possible to help prevent you becoming homeless or to find you supported accommodation. To make a referral, Encompasses referral form can be found by clicking here.