More misery for families as fuel bills rise year

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STRUGGLING families are set to face more misery this winter as new figures reveal bills in Edinburgh and the Lothians will be higher than the UK average.

Households across the UK have been hit with two rounds of energy price hikes in just under 12 months, forcing families to spend more income on heating and electricity.

Figures from today’s Edinburgh Index reveal the extent of monthly increase in dual fuel bills for city residents.

However, annual figures from the UK comparison site uSwitch.com reveal the average bill for locals now stands at £1,378 - up from £1,144 in October 2010.

The figure is already substantially higher than the UK average of £1,283.

ScottishPower has increased prices by 20 per cent, or £234, again higher than the UK average of £224.

Increasing energy prices are widely regarded to be an accelerator to general price inflation and may cause price hikes in everyday items.

Trisha McAuley, depute director at Consumer Focus Scotland said: “The recent announcements on huge energy price increases are the latest in a lengthening list of body blows for consumers in Edinburgh.

“We would encourage people to act to reduce their costs where they can – for example by looking to move to a new provider to reduce their energy bills.

“It is also important that governments take action to ensure that consumers in Edinburgh, particularly vulnerable people, are protected as much as possible and a wide range of help is put in place for those who may be struggling.”

Tom Lyon, energy expert at uSwitch.com, said there are a several ways for local families to reduce the impact of the price hikes.

He said: “Consumers should look to take advantage of these discounts and some of the competitive energy tariffs available by taking the time to shop around.

“Switching pays – there is currently up to £400 difference between the cheapest and most expensive plans in the market, which is the equivalent of saving a third off your yearly bill.”

Overall today’s Cost of Living survey charts the continuing gradual rise in petrol prices, although our survey found considerable saving can be found by checking for the cheapest local station online.

Although the cost of rent continues to rise gradually, the cost of the average shopping basket remains stable.

And our figures will not yet show the full effect of the supermarket price war, sparked by Tesco last week, and followed by its rivals, which is expected to benefit customers.

Figures from the council’s Economy Watch also showed a drop in footfall in the city centre on last year, but a rise in new business start-ups.

rory.reynolds@edinburghnews.com