1. ITV Report

Two-thirds of us 'worried about winter fuel bills'

Two-thirds of people in Wales say they're worried about the cost of their winter fuel Photo: Rui Vieira/PA Wire

Two-thirds of people in Wales are worried about the potential cost of their energy bills this winter, according to research by Citizens Advice.

Half of those surveyed said they would cut back on food shopping to pay for bills.

Similarly, half said they are planning to spend less this Christmas due to fuel bill worries.

Fran Targett from Citizens Advice Cymru said:

Big energy bills and rising daily costs are putting extra pressure on household budgets that are already stretched thin. We're worried that some people are finding themselves unnecessarily hard-up because they're paying more than they have to for their fuel bills and aren't getting all of the help that's available to them.

– Fran Targett, Citizens Advice Cymru

New figures show:

  • Three out of four believe their energy bills will be higher this winter
  • Over half don't have the heating on as much as they'd like
  • Almost one in five are not using some rooms in their homes in a bid to keep costs down

Despite this, only 30% had checked with their supplier to see if they were on the best deal - and fewer than one in 10 had changed to another energy company.

Only a third have insulated their homes and just 37% of households are using less electricity.

As Big Energy Saving Week gets underway today, Citizens Advice in Wales is calling on people to 'Check, switch and insulate' to help keep bills under control.

People must check, switch and insulate to make sure that they're getting the best deal for their energy. Throughout Big Energy Saving Week we're helping the nation prepare for winter and putting money back in people's pockets.

– Fran Targett, Citizens Advice Cymru

Energy suppliers blame the hike on their own increasing costs, including delivery charges and wholesale energy prices. They say they remain committed trying to keep costs as low as possible for customers.

The following advice has been issued to bill-payers as part of Big Energy Savings Week:

  • Check you are on the best deal with your current supplier and whether there is a better way you can pay your bills. Most suppliers offer a discount if you pay by direct debit - on average around £100, compared to paying your bill by cash or cheque.
  • Make sure you are getting all the financial help you are eligible for. Up to £20 billion of benefits went unclaimed in 2011. Your supplier might be able to offer you a discount if you are on certain benefits too. Speak to your local Citizens Advice Bureau who can help.
  • Switch to a better deal with a new supplier, particularly if you have never switched before. You could potentially save as much as £200 or more by shopping around. A list of accredited websites can be found here.
  • If you use heating oil, consider joining or setting up a local oil buying club. You might be able to negotiate a discount with suppliers if you are buying in bulk. Also, buy early before winter and you might get it cheaper.
  • Insulating the loft and cavity walls of your home is a great way to save money on your heating bills - up to £160 per year if you do both. Most major energy suppliers are also offering this free or at a reduced price.
  • You might be able to get some help with improving the efficiency of your property from Government funded schemes if you are on a low income. There are different schemes for Scotland, England and Wales.
  • There are also lots of small things you can do for free or at low cost around the home to save money on your energy bills saving, on average, up to £195 per year. You can find out more by calling the Energy Saving Trust on 0300 123 1234 or fill out an online home energy check here.

Increasing energy prices mean it is vital that we give householders all the support we can to help them reduce the costs of heating their homes - and initiatives such as Big Energy Savings Week are a key part of that.

– John Griffiths AM, Environment Minister

Big Energy Saving events will be held across Wales this week to help people save money on their energy bills, including a three-day event in Bridgend, as well as events in Holyhead, Abergavenny, Llangefni and Amlwch.

Advice is also available online at www.bigenergysavingweek.org.uk, by calling 0300 123 1234 or through your local Citizens Advice Bureau.