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‘We live from month to month’: people in UK brace for April’s bill rises

Households will be hit with a spate of bill hikes from April, with councils, water suppliers and telecoms companies among those raising their prices.

While the government’s energy price guarantee (EPG) will remain fixed until the end of June, the start of April also means the conclusion of the £400 energy bills support scheme (EBSS). Businesses will also no longer receive a discounted rate, leaving many in a financially perilous position.

Here, five people tell us how they will be affected by rising bills.

Rising council tax: ‘Where does it end?’

Brigitte Taylor, 45, a supermarket worker from Horsham, West Sussex, is facing a council tax rise on 1 April of 5%, the maximum a local authority is allowed to increase the charges by without consulting residents.

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“It’ll be £207 per month, a monthly rise of £10. Our household budget is already tight. What happens next year if it goes up again? Where does it end?” she says.

“We do meal planning, we try to be energy efficient, but finding extra money in our budget is getting harder and harder. We live from month to month. Eventually, people have to start taking money out of their food and general living allowance, which is what we’re doing now. My husband works full-time, I already work 16 hours overtime a week so we can live, taking me to 32 in total. I can’t work more than that as we have school age children. I get minimum wage.”

Like many people across the country, Taylor feels the higher council tax charges are not justified, given various local public services are being scaled back.

“Despite the rise of our council tax, services here have been cut, especially for children and young people. I just don’t feel that we are getting our money’s worth.”

Water bills: ‘There’s not much wriggle room’

Laura, a performance analyst, was prepared for the rises to her energy and council tax bills. But the increase to her water bill came as a shock. “I don’t understand why this bill has increased by so much compared with other years,” says the 39-year-old from Surrey. “I don’t understand the justification behind it.”

Her annual Thames Water bill has risen from £382 to £427. She says the rise comes against a backdrop of bill hikes and rising costs across the board, which have also led her to rely more on her credit card.

Laura pays her water bill annually after receiving her yearly work bonus, and is considering whether to prioritise reducing her credit card balance, paying the water bill in full or putting money into her depleted savings. “There’s not much wriggle room, and I’m afraid any decision I take will impact my monthly ability to reach the next payday,” she says. “I haven’t experienced [this] since I was on minimum wage in my twenties.

“What scares me is if I have an extra expense or lose my job I no longer have savings for that. I [would] have problems paying my mortgage and bills from literally a month or two. Every time something increases, it adds to that.”

Energy bills: ‘It’s a postcode lottery’

Despite the continuation of the EPG, Bill Barnes, 67, is facing a significant rise in bills. He was “shocked” by how much his bill was expected to increase: his home in Derbyshire is all-electric, and from 1 April his annual energy costs are projected to rise from £1,324 to £2,309, his provider EDF informed him.

This is due to a rise in daily standing charges, and what Barnes terms the “postcode lottery” surrounding rates, as unit prices vary by region. While the unit day rate for his area is falling, his household, which is on the Economy 7 tariff, will see the night rate rise from 5.88p to 16.93p per kilowatt hour. As his home uses storage heaters, which make the most of off-peak electricity, the rise in his bill is significant.

Barnes says the end of the EBSS has been “well trailed” but that he is “alarmed” by the price rise from EDF. “I’ve tried to complain about the principle,” he says. “They don’t understand that it’s a lot on top of losing the £400.”

Telecoms rises: ‘It’s a ridiculous level of increase’

Grahame Sturges lives in the Vale of Glamorgan, south Wales, and recently cancelled his broadband contract with Virgin Media after it announced his bill would be rising from £26 a month to £33.

“I thought they were just jumping on the bandwagon – I don’t see why they’re bumping the price up so much, other than that others are doing it too. It’s just an opportunistic rise, I think,” says the 75-year-old.

Sturges was able to quit the contract before the price rise was to come into force (1 May), and has switched to BT for broadband. He will be paying £30 a month on this contract, fixed for two years. “I’ll review the situation then,” he adds.

The rise also prompted Sturges to ditch his BT landline, which was setting him back £45 a month, and rely on his mobile phone instead.

He believes Ofcom should do more to shield customers. “I don’t know how the regulator can sit there and allow companies to charge RPI +3.9%. They’re there to protect consumers – it’s a ridiculous level of increase.”

Business energy bills: ‘These astronomical prices are not sustainable’

Ash Ali, the managing director of a health club in Rustington, West Sussex, is worried the end of the government’s energy support could bankrupt the club. “These astronomical prices are not sustainable,” says the 51-year-old. “Business is stronger than before the pandemic, but it’s just not enough [with] the energy rises..”

He says the end of the scheme will take the business “into negative territory again”.

The club’s energy costs have spiralled. Ali was paying about £4,000 to £5,000 a month for gas to Crown Gas & Power until his contract ended last October. At a time of high prices, he then agreed to a short-term contract until March with Sefe Energy. His latest monthly bill was about £23,000, and he is in hefty arrears.

“Survival depends on what contract I can get after this,” he says. “We need time to settle but are getting penalised for not paying on time, and our credit is being affected.”

After the government support ends, he expects his electricity bill from British Gas to jump from the discounted rate of about £20,560 this month, to more than £30,000 in April.

“I hear the government wants more businesses to invest. Unfortunately, it does not seem this way; if we fail, we’ll have 70 plus staff out of jobs and 2,500 members without a health club.”