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Open letter to Liz Truss, Leader of the Conservative Party

September 5, 2022

Open letter to Liz Truss, Leader of the Conservative Party Featured Image

Dear Ms Truss,

Congratulations on your recent election as leader of the Conservative Party.

At Fuel Bank Foundation, we were pleased to hear you announce that tackling the cost-of-living crisis and rising energy bills will be your main priority during your first week in office.

Since its launch in 2015, Fuel Bank Foundation has provided crisis support to more than 650,000 people who cannot afford to top-up their prepayment energy meter and are at risk of living without heat, light and power in their home.

The people we help, often the most vulnerable in society, are really struggling right now and becoming increasingly concerned about how they are going to cope when prices rise in October and then again in January. Our Fuel Bank Centres are already seeing peak winter demand levels, which is only going to increase as the colder weather arrives and households need to switch on the heating.

In May, the Government announced its Cost-of-Living Support package to help people pay for their increased energy bills. However, this was at a time when the average bill was expected to be £2800 from 1 October. At the end of August, Ofgem announced that it will be £3549.

We estimate the average prepayment meter customer will have to top up their meter by £480 to remain on supply in December. Based on the forecasts of industry analysts, we believe that figure could rise to £713 in January 2023.

People who pay by Direct Debit have their energy costs spread equally throughout the year, but the people we support have to pay in advance for their energy and will be forced to spend part of each month without heating or light as prices this high will be impossible to pay.

We are, therefore, calling on you to announce an additional emergency package of financial support, especially for the poorest in our society, for whom energy bills now take up a huge proportion of their incomes. This support should be meaningful and targeted at those who need and will benefit from it the most.

In addition to support for those with prepayment energy meters, we also ask that you address the spiralling cost of heating oil and providing better consumer protection for homes that rely on it.

More than 1.5 million households in the UK rely on heating oil to heat their homes, the majority of which are in rural locations and don’t have access to the main gas network. Unlike electricity and mains gas supply, which are regulated and offer consumers a level of price and supply protection, the solid fuel market is currently unregulated, leaving consumers exposed to higher fuel costs, with oil prices fluctuating daily.

Through our Heat Fund, households living without heat because they can’t afford to buy fuel to fill their coal bunker, wood store, LPG bottles or heating oil tank or those imminently at risk of running out of fuel can apply for an emergency delivery, but more needs to be done to protect this group of consumers.

Lastly, an emergency roll-out of energy efficiency measures (that can be installed quickly) to help people reduce their consumption should be announced. The country is facing an unprecedented cost-of-living crisis (not seen for a generation). We urge you to show leadership and creative thinking in these challenging times to ensure that nobody in our country has to live in the cold and dark this winter.

Yours sincerely,

Matthew Cole, Head of Fuel Bank Foundation