Millions of people could struggle to heat and power their homes this winter with the rise in prices plunging more households into fuel poverty.
According to National Energy Action CEO Adam Scorer, that figure could reach 5.5million households.
And coupled with the removal of the £20 uplift to Universal Credit, it could leave some having to make the difficult choice between heating and eating.
Bedford Borough Council is urging people to check what support they are eligible for by visiting its online Financial Support directory
Bedford Mayor, Dave Hodgson, also reminded residents of the Warm Home Discount, the government scheme which gives people receiving certain benefits a payment of £140 towards their winter electricity bills.
And the council is also writing to landlords to make sure the homes they rent meet energy efficiency rules.
In 2015, the Government introduced the Minimum Energy Efficiency Standards (MEES) Regulations, which set a minimum energy efficiency level for domestic private rented properties.
This has since been updated, and now applies to all domestic private rented properties that are legally required to have an Energy Performance Certificate (EPC).
The minimum rating for any rented accommodation is an E – and an improved EPC rating could lower energy bills, increase comfort at home, and reduce the household’s overall carbon footprint.
Landlords that don’t meet the standards can be fined and may not be able to rent at all.
The energy rating of the property must be disclosed when it is advertised, and the full EPC must be shown to potential tenants at a viewing.
Those who are already in a rented home and have not seen the property’s EPC, should ask their landlord or managing agent to provide it.
A spokesperson for Bedford Borough Council said, “We are writing to landlords stating the improvements required where E rated or below properties are identified in rented properties.
“We are also checking the current rating of properties either when they apply for a HMO (house in multiple occupation) licence or through reactive complaints received.
“If no works to improve the EPC rating are delivered, Bedford Borough Council has an enforcement policy for Minimum Energy Efficiency Standards.”
The council has investigated properties where EPC ratings do not meet the minimum standard.
“But we have not needed to prosecute any landlords as yet,” the spokesperson added. “The properties have been brought up to standard through works carried out by the landlord.”
As well as ensuring that private landlords are meeting MEES standards, it is working to ensure its social housing stock is more energy-efficient.
“We are currently working with groups such as BPHA, our principal provider of social housing, and others to help support them to make their properties more energy efficient,” the spokesperson said.
“Funds have been identified that will allow us to introduce a number of measures from cavity wall insulation to EV panels and air source heat pumps.”
by John Guinn
Local Democracy Reporter