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BRITAIN’S energy crisis is “growing by the week,” campaigners warned today after research found that household debt has hit a five-year high of £216 as winter approaches.
The number of homes already owing money to their energy provider is up 11 per cent on last year, according to a survey by comparison website Uswitch.
Of those in arrears on their gas and electricity bills, 40 per cent say their debt is higher than last year and 28 per cent believe their position is about the same as 12 months ago.
Almost one in seven say they have gone from being in credit a year ago to owing money now.
More than half of households are worried about how they will pay their energy bills this winter and 49 per cent say they will wear extra layers of clothing at home so that they can manage with less heating.
And 25 per cent say they will not turning their heating at all, even when it is cold.
End Fuel Poverty Coalition co-ordinator Simon Francis said: “The evidence showing the scale of households’ unsustainable energy debt is growing by the week.
“This debt has been caused through no fault of their own, but by rising prices, which are still running at almost double what they were a couple of years ago.
“Energy firms have continued to profit from the misery of people racking up debt and living in cold damp homes and, with debt at the levels now being shown, even more people will spend the winter living in Dickensian conditions.”
Mr Francis said the government “needs to work with energy firms to introduce a ‘help to repay’ scheme to help get Britain’s households back onto an even keel and develop plans to fix Britain’s broken energy system for good.”
Fuel Poverty Action spokesman Stuart Bretherton said the figures “demonstrate that the energy poverty crisis is getting worse, not better.”
He told the Star: “The support offered by the government had the most positive impact on energy company profits, which reached record levels in the past year, while we’ve been dealing with impossibly high costs.
“No-one should be driven into debt by essential needs such as energy, food and water.
“The government needs to take urgent action to prevent people in energy debt being disconnected from their supply this winter.”
Warm This Winter spokesperson Fi Waters said: “The Uswitch findings just show the level of debt ordinary people in the UK are in trying to stay warm, even ahead of this winter. It follows the Ofgem announcement last week that revealed energy debt now amounts to a staggering £2.6 billion.
"This enormous debt just proves ordinary people cannot keep footing the bill for our broken energy system. The government needs to put the public's need for an affordable energy supply ahead of the demands of energy giants.
"Why not use the billions that it's giving in tax breaks to Norwegian oil giant Equinor for the Rosebank oil field, which will do nothing to lower fuel costs, to write off this debt that people have through no fault of their own.”
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