Cold snap hits home and business finances

Workers clear the roads in Burnley after heavy snow falls. Photo: Press Assocation

As the temperature plunges, family finances also take a dive as we spend more keeping homes warm. Businesses face the same increase in bills - and it comes just as trade falls for many firms because customers are staying away from the shops, from pubs and restaurants.

New figures show a 23 percent decline in visits to shops over the weekend compared with last year.. We are staying in and trying to keep warm.

Usually gas demand at this time of year is 270 million cubic metres, but the actual demand today is 370 million cubic meters. That increased demand is equivalent of seven million homes been heated for a whole day.

Increased demand does push up prices. So the average price per therm is 70p. Today's price is 99p. That increase is wholesale - but its feared that if the cold continues beyond Easter that rise in wholesale will be passed on into domestic bills.

Demand for gas supplies have risen following the recent cold snap. Credit: Press Assocation

There is a fear that the terror of rising fuel bills means people are leaving their homes cold. The Citizens Advice Bureau has dealt with over 94,500 fuel debt cases and says one in five over 55s are now not using all their rooms due to fears they will cost too much to heat.

Cold weather payments this month have reached £4 million - that's £25 extra given to some on benefits when it is this cold. But the cut-off point is March 31, so if the cold spell continues into April, payouts wont be made.