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43 per cent of people worry they can't afford their next fuel bill

16 January 2012

43% of people are worried they can’t afford their next fuel bill and one in two say energy bills will put a strain on their finances this year, according to new figures released today from Citizens Advice at the start of its Big Energy Week which will help people save money on their fuel bills.

Big Energy Week (16-21 January 2012) will see advisers across country help people spend less on heating and powering their home.  The Week is supported by Consumer Focus, Which?, Energy UK, energy companies, charities, accredited switching sites, Ofgem and the Government. (See end for details of advice event at Westfield which Secretary of State, Chris Huhne will be attending).

Citizens Advice, Chief Executive, Gillian Guy said:

“We know hikes in prices have put extra pressure on people’s budgets at a time when money is already tight. Day in day out our bureaux helping people who can’t afford their fuel bills.

“We’re worried that some people are struggling unnecessarily because they’re not on the best deal; live in homes that haemorrhage heat or are not getting all of the financial help available to them.”

Last November eight times as many people came to Citizens Advice for online advice on cutting their fuel bills compared to the previous November. And in 2011 we helped clientswith over 96,000 fuel debt problems. The Big Energy Week survey also found:

  • having the heating on less topped the list of what people are doing to cut energy bills (53%)
  • one in three people don’t know that energy companies are offering help to insulate their home, rising to 46% in London.
  • 71% of people who said their energy bills would put a strain on their finances this year also said they were worried they won’t be able to pay their next fuel bill.

(See end for full fact file with more statistics)

Energy and Climate Change Secretary Chris Huhne said:

“We know that a lot of households are struggling to cope with rising energy costs. Many people could cut their gas and electricity bills by moving to a better deal with their existing supplier, switching to another supplier altogether, or by taking up home insulation offers. But we need to make sure consumers are aware of this and make it easier for them to take action to save money. That is why I am backing Big Energy Week. We want to get the advice and information out to as many consumers across the country as possible.”

At you can get advice on how to cut your fuel bill, helpful contact telephone numbers and links as well as find out what’s happening in your area. You can also contact your local Citizens Advice Bureaux to for energy saving advice – the number will be in the phone book.  

Big Energy Week is helping people save money on their bills by encouraging them to:

  • Contact your supplier to check you are you are on the best  tariff and payment method for you.  Monthly direct debit is on average £100 cheaper per year than paying by cash or cheque.
  • Visit an accredited switching website to see if you could get your energy cheaper elsewhere. You may be able to save up to £200 off your annual bill by shopping around for a different supplier, particularly if you have never changed energy firm.
  • Insulate the walls and the loft of your home and you could save on average around £120 per year.  All major gas and electricity suppliers are giving away free or discounted insulation to any household, not just their own customers. Ask if you’re eligible so you don’t miss out.  That goes for heating oil customers too.
  • Check you are not missing out on any benefits or tax credits that could up your income; your local Citizens Advice Bureaux can help you with this.
  • Using less energy could save you money, just by doing simple things like turning off lights and switching appliances off at the wall. Turning your thermostat down 1°C alone could cut your heating bill by £60 on average.
  • If you are unable to pay your bills you should contact your energy supplier immediately as they have to help you manage your bills in a way that you can afford.  
  • If you use heating oil or liquid petroleum gas to heat your home, shop around and compare prices from different oil suppliers.  You could also save money by buying in bulk with your neighbours; check if there is an oil club you can join or start one up.  

Added Gillian:

“More and more people are coming to us for advice on how they can save money on their energy bills.  Through Big Energy Week we hope to help lots of people cut their fuel bills and ease their money worries.”

For more information contact:

Tel: 0207 833 7178 or 0207 833 7107  or 020 2833 7085

Our out-of-hours contact number: 0845 0990107

Wales press office: Warren Carr on 02920 694900

Scotland press office: Matt Lancashire on 0131 550 1062

There is also a Scotland, Wales and regional versions of this release available.

Events for media to attend

Journalists and photographers are welcome to attend the events – but will need a press pass for Westfield and St David’s Shopping Centre in Cardiff. Please contact to arrange a press pass.


Westfield Shopping Centre, Shepherds Bush, London.

Monday 16 January 2012


Ground floor, North Atrium, Westfield Shopping Centre, Ariel Way, London, W12 7GF (near Boots and next to Starbucks).

Chris Huhne, Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change and Gillian Guy Chief Executive of Citizens Advice, will arrive at the Westfield event between 11 and 11.30am.


The St David’s Centre, Cardiff

Monday 16 - Wednesday 18 January.


By the entrance to M&S and Debenhams

John Griffiths AM, Minister for Environment and Sustainable Development will be attending the event at 10.30am on Monday 16 January.

There is also an event in Edinburgh. Please contact Citizens Advice Scotland for more information.

Other filming opportunities and case studies

Big Energy Week events across the country.

We have a limited number of case studies available for interview. These include people who are struggling with their energy bills and those who have cut their bills by insulating their home or made it more energy efficient.

Fact file

Big Energy Week survey findings*

  • 43% of people are worried they can’t afford their next fuel bill.
  • More people in the West Midlands fear they won’t be able to pay their next bill compared to anywhere else in the country (52%).
  • 46% of 35-44 year olds are worried they can’t pay their next bill – that’s more than any other age group.
  • One in two say energy bills will put a strain on their finances this year.
  • Of those who said their bills would put a strain on their finances this year – 71% said they were worried they won’t be able to pay their next energy bill.
  • Over half of 45-54 year olds said fuel bills will put pressure on the purse strings this year.
  • Parents with children under 15 living at home are most worried about energy bills putting a strain on their finances (56%).
  • In a bid to cut bills 64% of people who said their energy bills are putting a strain on their finances don’t have the heating on as much and are using less electricity.
  • One in three people don’t know that help is available to insulate their home, rising to 46% in London.

Other statistics

  • Last November eight times as many people came to Citizens Advice for online advice on cutting their fuel bills compared to the previous November. (source: Citizens Advice)
  • In 2011 we helped clients with over 96,000 fuel debt problems. (source: Citizens Advice)
  • In the last three months Citizens Advice Bureaux dealt with over 500 fuel-related problems each day (source: Citizens Advice)
  • The average energy bill (based on dual fuel standard credit - cash / cheque customer) is 21% higher than it was at the start of last winter – rising from £1,069 in November 2010 to £1294 now (source: Consumer Focus)
  • One in six people plan to only heat half, or fewer, of the rooms in their house this winter. (source: Consumer Focus)
  • Fewer than half of people (49%) are aware their energy firm has to take their circumstances and ability to pay into consideration when arranging repayments of outstanding bills and almost one in five (19%) believe their supplier could name any amount and they would have to pay it. (source: Consumer Focus)
  • 5.5 million households in the UK are in fuel poverty (source: the Department of Energy and Climate Change)
  • Research by the Home Heat Helpline shows that one in ten UK households are entitled to some form of assistance with their fuel bills but many people don’t know what help is available. That help is worth an average of £250 for each household. (source: Home Heat Helpline)
  • In total 3.5 million households in the UK could benefit from using the Home Heat Helpline to claim support, with some regions being even more eligible for help than others.  For example in Birmingham and Liverpool, over one in five households is eligible for assistance, proving an even greater reason to pick up the phone. (source: Home Heat Helpline)

Notes to editors:

  1. The Citizens Advice service comprises a network of local bureaux, all of which are independent charities, the Citizens Advice consumer service and national charity Citizens Advice. Together we help people resolve their money, legal and other problems by providing information and advice and by influencing policymakers. For more see the Citizens Advice website.
  2. The advice provided by the Citizens Advice service is free, independent, confidential, and impartial, and available to everyone regardless of race, gender, disability, sexual orientation, religion, age or nationality.
  3. To find your local bureau in England and Wales, visit You can also get advice online at
  4. You can get consumer advice from the Citizens Advice consumer service on 03454 04 05 06 or 03454 04 05 05 for Welsh language speakers
  5. Citizens Advice Bureaux in England and Wales advised 2.3 million clients on 5.4 million problems from October 2013 to September 2014. For full 2013/2014  service statistics see our quarterly publication Advice trends
  6. Citizens Advice service staff are supported by more than 21,000 trained volunteers, working at over 3,000 service outlets across England and Wales.