Families have described how they are struggling to cover their food and energy costs as annual energy bills rise by around £700.
One site manager told The Independent how he couldn’t afford to socialise any more, and a hairdressing business owner said he could not always afford meals, saying: “Sometimes I eat, sometimes I don’t”.
The £693-a-year rise in a typical energy bill will affect 18 million households, and 4.5 million customers on prepaid meters will face an increase of £708 a year.
The rising prices will double the number of households in “fuel stress” – a term for those spending 10 per cent or more of their income after housing costs on energy bills – overnight from 2.5 to 5 million in England alone, according to the Resolution Foundation think tank.
Protesters from the climate group Just Stop Oil blocked “10 critical oil terminals” across the UK this morning, as the biggest rise in British energy bills takes effect.
See below for how our live coverage unfolded.
Energy UK urges customers to find alternate ways to submit meter readings
A spokesman for Energy UK, the trade association for the industry, said: “We’re aware that some suppliers are experiencing issues with their websites due to the volume of customers submitting meter readings.
“Suppliers do offer alternative ways of doing this such as through automated phone lines and apps so we’d recommend customers try those. Customers with smart meters do not need to worry as their readings are automatically sent to their supplier.”
According to Downdetector, E.ON, Scottish Power, British Gas and SSE have gone down.
Child poverty branded ‘stain on our nation’ as new figures show more than a quarter below line
The £20 uplift to Universal Credit introduced during the Covid pandemic and abolished by chancellor Rishi Sunak last autumn played a part in lifting 400,000 children out of poverty, new figures released today have indicated.
But charities said that the withdrawal of the uplift, coupled with the chancellor’s refusal to upgrade welfare benefits in line with soaring inflation, means that many of the same children will be thrust back into poverty this year.
The Child Poverty Action group accused ministers of “turning their backs on low-income families” after a mini-budget in which Mr Sunak cut fuel prices for motorists and promised an income tax cut for workers, but left the annual benefit increase at 3.1 per cent in a year when inflation is expected to reach almost 9 per cent.
Our political editor, Andrew Woodcock, has the full story below:
£20 benefit uplift helped take almost half a million out of poverty before being abolished by Rishi Sunak
NEW: ‘Unprecedented demand’ for meter reading submissions behind website crash - EDF
Energy supplier, EDF Energy has released a new statement on website and app crashes for customers submitting meter readings.
“We are seeing an unprecedented demand from customers trying to submit a meter reading either online or via the EDF mobile app, which has led to us experiencing technical issues, we’re continuing to resolve this issue as quickly as we can and we apologise for any inconvenience this has caused,” the statement read.
“We urge customers not to worry and want to reassure them, that they don’t have to submit meter readings to us today and can share these with us in the coming days. In the meantime, we would encourage customers who usually submit meter readings to either take a photo, or make a note of their meter reading. Customers who have a smart meter, or are on a fixed tariff, don’t need to do anything at the moment.”
Martin Lewis shares five tips to save hundreds of pounds on fuel as petrol costs continue to soar
Money saving expert Martin Lewis has shared top tips to help drivers save thousands of pounds on fuel.
Mr Lewis estimates that for someone who drives 15,000 miles a year averaging 35 miles per gallon (12.4 km/L), just buying petrol at the average UK price would cost £2,963 annually as of March 2022. Cutting this by 25% could save £741/year.
Our reporter, Maryam Zakir-Hussain, has the full list below:
From decluttering your car to turning off the AC- Martin Lewis tells drivers how they can make their fuel last longer
Reprieve for capping fracking wells as government considers its energy strategy
The UK’s only shale gas wells will not be sealed up at the end of June after regulators lifted an order for them to be capped.
Fracking firm Cuadrilla had been under instruction to plug its wells in Lancashire by the end of June 2022.
But the North Sea Transition Authority (NSTA) said the firm now had until the end of June 2023 to evaluate options for the Preston New Road and Elswick sites.
The move comes ahead of the publication of the Government’s delayed energy strategy, with Boris Johnson under pressure from Tory MPs to end a moratorium on fracking.
Cuadrilla chief executive Francis Egan said: “I would like to thank the Prime Minister and the Business Secretary for seeing the light and realising - just in time - how absurd it would have been to force us to pour concrete down Britain’s only two viable shale gas wells in the middle of an energy crisis.
“But this suspension will have a cul-de-sac ending unless we now reverse the moratorium preventing us from using the wells (and others like them) to get shale gas out of the ground and flowing into British households.”
Octopus Energy boss urges customers not panic as 40,000 meter readings received an hour
Speaking to BBC Radio 4’s World At One programme Greg Jackson said: “I think with most companies, certainly with Octopus, you can give it any time in the next week and you know, we’ll apply it to the day when you took it.”
Mr Jackson said he was “pretty sure that’ll apply universally” and added: “Right now, just to put a number on it, we’re getting about 40,000 meter readings an hour, and a normal day is a couple of thousand.”
He said while people should take the reading just before the price change, it did not have to be submitted straight away.
The chief executive of energy company Octopus has urged people not to panic about submitting a meter reading before April 1 as he said the firm was getting 40,000 meter readings an hour.
Protests planned over cost-of-living crisis and P&O sackings
A series of demonstrations will be held across the country in the coming days over the cost-of-living crisis and continued anger about the sacking of 800 P&O workers.
The People’s Assembly said it expects thousands of protesters will take to the streets on Saturday at locations throughout the UK to highlight those suffering “real hardships” due to the combination of rising fuel and food prices, inflation, and low pay.
Unions have complained that Chancellor Rishi Sunak’s spring statement last week did nothing to allay fears about soaring fuel bills and rising inflation.
Read the full story below:
A series of demonstrations will be held across the country, including outside Downing Street.
Businesses facing a 250 per cent increase in gas bills
Small and medium sized businesses face an average gas bill rise of over 250 per cent, research conducted by market researcher Cornwall Insight.
Wholesale market volatility, amongst other factors, has seen gas prices jump significantly for all consumers. However, unlike domestic customers, non-domestic customers have yet to see any dedicated government support to manage the record high energy bills they are facing.
The unstable energy market is also seeing suppliers withdraw tariff propositions at short notice, which is making it harder for business customers to secure the contracts they need, and may lead to them facing higher costs given the nature of this volatility.
Craig Lowrey, Senior Consultant at Cornwall Insight said: “The past two years have been incredibly tough for small and medium sized businesses, with many still struggling to keep their heads above water. Record high energy bills will eat further into their profits in an already very challenging economic environment.
Energy firms criticised as websites crash in rush to submit meter readings
Consumer groups have criticised energy firms for failing to avert a widescale crash of their websites as customers rushed to submit meter readings ahead of Friday’s price jump.
Customers reported issues logging in to supplier websites including British Gas, EDF, E.On, SSE, So Energy and Octopus Energy from early on Thursday.
Experts including Citizens Advice and MoneySavingExpert founder Martin Lewis had urged householders to submit meter readings to avoid being overcharged for their usage after the 54% increase to Ofgem’s price cap comes into effect on Friday.
Citizens Advice head of energy policy Gillian Cooper said: “This is a frustrating situation for customers, many of whom are already incredibly worried about how they’ll cope with rising bills.
“We know some energy companies have put in measures to prepare for a surge of people sending meter readings, but clearly it hasn’t been enough.
“If you’ve managed to take a photo of your meter you’ll be able to contact your provider with proof of your usage on March 31. If you weren’t able to take a meter reading your energy company will use a reasonable estimate of your energy usage before the price cap rise to calculate your bill.”
Which? consumer rights editor Adam French said: “Energy companies should have been prepared for higher numbers of customers getting in touch and should support any customers trying to submit their meter readings today.”
When do gas and electric prices go up and why? The energy price rise explained
The UK’s energy price cap, the maximum amount a utility company can charge an average customer per year for the amount of electricity and gas they use, has just been reviewed and risen by 54 per cent, meaning a steep rise in household bills this spring.
From 1 April, the cap will rise from £1,277 to £1,971 for a household on average usage. That means a £693 per year increase for the average customer.
Prepayment meter customers will see an even greater increase of £708 from £1,309 to £2,017.
My colleague Joe Sommerlad reports:
How much have gas and electricity prices gone up?
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