According to the study on fuel poverty by the University of York, the region hardest hit will be Northern Ireland with single parent households with two more more children will bare the brunt at 90.4 per cent

Fuel poverty will hit more than half of UK households by 2023, study finds as energy prices rocket

Fuel poverty is defined as having to spend over 10 per cent of net income on fuel

By Sadie Whitelocks

An estimated 45 million Britons will be forced into fuel poverty and struggle to pay energy bills this winter, new research has found.

Two-thirds of all UK households – or 18 million families – will be plunged into financial precariousness by January due to soaring inflation, which is already at 40-year record high.

According to the study on fuel poverty by the University of York, the region hardest hit will be Northern Ireland with 76.3 per cent of families battling to make ends meet, followed by Scotland at 72.8 per cent, then the West Midlands (70.9 per cent) and Yorkshire and the Humber (70.6 per cent).

The research further stated that 86.4 per cent of pensioner couples will fall into fuel poverty. Single parent households with two more more children will bare the brunt at 90.4 per cent.

Fuel poverty is defined as having to spend over 10 per cent of net income on fuel. The report estimates that households living in fuel poverty will be spending on average £37.51 above this 10 per cent threshold per month.

The electricity and gas price cap will rise again in October 2022 and again in January 2023. The size of the increase has not yet been announced but it is expected to take average electricity and gas bills to £64.59 per week or £3,359 per year.

It is also expected that the January increase will take weekly bills to £69.53 or £3,615.75 per year, with some sources predicting even larger increases.

The report highlights how the £400 rebate being offered by the government will reduce these bills by only £15.38 per week between October 2022 and April 2023.

Co-lead author of the report Professor Jonathan Bradshaw from the Social Policy research unit at the University of York said: “This should be the main preoccupation of the Conservative leadership candidates. A new package of mitigations is urgently needed”.

Rocio Concha, Which? director of policy and advocacy, said: “These concerning findings echo Which? research that found that six in 10 households had to make an adjustment – such as cutting back on essentials or dipping into savings – to cover their spending in the last month and reinforces the need to urgently deal with this crisis before many more families are pushed into the difficult choice between heating or eating. 

“The Government must move quickly to increase the amount of financial support it is providing to help households make ends meet and work with businesses to look at what more they can do for those facing serious financial hardship.”

The Shadow secretary of state for climate change and net zero, Ed Miliband, responded to the report by calling for an energy price freeze to address the “national emergency” of inflation.

The Labour MP wrote on Twitter: “These shocking figures show the full scale of the national emergency that could unfold unless the Conservative government acts to freeze energy bills.

“We simply cannot allow the British people to suffer in this way. We need an energy price freeze.”

It echoed Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer’s proposal announced on Monday to freeze the energy price cap at its current level of £1,971 for six months from October, saving the average household £1,000.

The cost-of-living crisis was catapulted further up the agenda in the Conservative leadership election as new figures showed a worse-than-expected hit in July with the Consumer Prices Index inflation (CPI) reaching 10.1 per cent.

Pressure was further applied to the Tory candidates and Government on Wednesday with the resignation of Ofgem director Christine Farnish, who cited concerns the energy regulator was failing to effectively protect struggling households.

Ms Farnish told The Times the watchdog had not “struck the right balance between the interests of consumers and the interests of suppliers”.

The energy regulator has faced criticism in recent months for not doing enough to protect families during the global energy crisis.

It is understood Ms Farnish’s resignation is linked to Ofgem’s decision to change the methodology of the price cap to allow suppliers to recover some of the high energy “backwardation” costs sooner rather than later.

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