40% of Britons struggling to pay energy bills amid cost-of-living crisis

LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM – MARCH 23:  Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak leaves 11 Downing Street for the House of Commons to deliver his Spring Statement on March 23, 2022 in London, England. Chancellor Rishi Sunak is set to deliver the Spring Statement at the House of Commons as UK inflation hits a 30-year high amid escalating cost of living crisis.  (Photo by Leon Neal/Getty Images)
Sunak has hinted there could be more help for families this autumn. (Getty Images)

Two in five adults are finding it difficult to pay their energy bills amid the cost-of-living crisis, new figures show.

Office for National Statistics (ONS) research released on Friday showed 40% of Britons reported finding the bills very or somewhat difficult to afford between 30 March and 24 April.

This is up from 37% in the previous period and highlights the growing financial pressures faced by households across the UK.

Among those who said they have gas or electricity supplied to their home, 3% reported they were behind on these bills.

The new figures are the first since the new energy price cap kicked in, meaning 22 million households have been hit by a £700 increase in the cap to £1,971.

The report also reveals that nine in 10 (91%) said their cost of living had risen, up from 62% in the first fortnight of November last year.

Four in 10 (39%) said they are now buying less food when food shopping.

The UK inflation rate as of March. (PA)
The UK inflation rate as of March. (PA)

Earlier this week, data from Kantar showed that grocery price inflation hit 5.9% in April, an 11-year high.

Meanwhile, overall Consumer Price Index (CPI) inflation jumped to 7% last month - a 30-year high - and analysts have predicted it could have hit more than 8% in April due to the impact of higher energy bills this month.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak hinted there could be further help in the autumn for people struggling with soaring energy bills.

In an interview with Mumsnet this week, Sunak acknowledged people’s concerns with the energy price cap expected to rise once again in October.

Read more: Sainsbury’s customers ‘now watch every penny’ as cost of living soars

“We’ll see what happens with the price cap in the autumn, I know people are anxious about this and wondering if they’re going to go up even more,” he said.

“Depending on what happens to bills then, of course, if we need to act and provide support for people we will, I’ve always said that. But it would be silly to do that now.”

Sunak last month announced a package of support including a £200 up-front rebate on energy bills from October – though this will have to be repaid over five years from 2023 – plus a £150 council tax rebate for homes in bands A to D effective this month. However, this was widely criticised as not going far enough.