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45 million Britons to be pushed into fuel poverty by January, study warns

·Finance Reporter, Yahoo Finance UK
·3-min read
 fuel poverty  energy bill claiming that the customer has defaulted on paying. Picture date: Wednesday December 1, 2021.
The region hardest hit by fuel poverty will be Northern Ireland with 76.3% of families battling to make ends meet. Photo: PA

Two-thirds of all UK households — an estimated 45 million Britons — will be trapped in fuel poverty by January, with even middle-income households struggling to pay their bills, a new study has warned.

The study by the University of York estimates that 18 million families will be plunged into financial precariousness by January due to soaring inflation.

The region hardest hit will be Northern Ireland with 76.3% of families battling to make ends meet, followed by Scotland at 72.8%, then the West Midlands (70.9%) and Yorkshire and the Humber (70.6%).

The research published by The Guardian further stated that 86.4% of pensioner couples will fall into fuel poverty.

Single parent households with two or more children are the most likely to fall into trouble from the looming price rises, with some 90.4% set to be plunged into fuel poverty.

Read more: UK inflation hits 10.1% as food prices hit 40-year high

It comes as Boris Johnson’s government and Tory leadership candidates Liz Truss and Rishi Sunak come under pressure to offer more direct support to ease the cost of living crisis, as inflation hits a 40-year high of 10.1%.

Inflation is soaring
Inflation is soaring. Chart: Yahoo

Pressure was further applied to the Tory candidates and the UK government on Wednesday with the resignation of Ofgem director Christine Farnish, who cited concerns the energy regulator was failing to effectively protect struggling households.

Farnish told The Times that the watchdog had not “struck the right balance between the interests of consumers and the interests of suppliers”.

Energy bills are set to soar
Energy bills are set to soar. Chart: Yahoo

The energy regulator has faced criticism in recent months for not doing enough to protect families during the global energy crisis.

It is understood Farnish’s resignation is linked to Ofgem’s decision to change the methodology of the price cap to allow suppliers to recover some of the high energy “backwardation” costs sooner rather than later.

Rocio Concha, Which? director of policy and advocacy, said: “These concerning findings echo Which? research that found that six in 10 households had to make an adjustment — such as cutting back on essentials or dipping into savings — to cover their spending in the last month and reinforces the need to urgently deal with this crisis before many more families are pushed into the difficult choice between heating or eating.

Read more: UK workers see record drop in pay amid rising bills

“The government must move quickly to increase the amount of financial support it is providing to help households make ends meet and work with businesses to look at what more they can do for those facing serious financial hardship.”

Since June 2013, the government has claimed a household is in fuel poverty if the property energy efficiency rating is band D or below or if paying the full price of those bills would leave the household with residual income below the official poverty line.

The energy efficiency scale defines band A as most efficient, and band G as least efficient.

Watch: Why are gas prices rising?