‘Warm banks’ could be set up in York this winter to give residents a place to go if they’ve turned off their heating.
Similar to food banks for people struggling to afford grocery bills, these would be venues open to everyone who can’t afford to heat their homes.
The idea is being investigated by York Central MP Rachael Maskell, who says people in the city are ‘terrified’ by the prospect of astronomical energy bills.
At the moment the energy price cap – the maximum amount suppliers can charge customers is just below £2K.
That is forecast to go up to £3,500 from next Friday (26 August). And in January 2023, the next time the cap is due to be changed, analysts expect it to go up again to £4,266.
“Of course, that will hit in winter, where there’s a high energy use,” Ms Maskell told YorkMix.
“People are terrified about what this actually means. For some people, they’re already making determinations about how they’re going to keep themselves warm over the winter. We could see a lot of people living under duvets.
“I’m looking at how we can source in York warm banks, where people can go get a warm meal, and ensure that they are kept safe.
YorkMix would also like to hear from any charities or individuals looking to set up warm banks or help in any other way. We would also like to hear your views on the energy crisis for residents. What do you think should be done? Or will we simply have to find ways to cope? Contact us on [email protected]
“People going to food banks are saying ‘I want items which don’t require cooking’ – because they simply will not be able to afford these astronomical sums.
“Everybody across the economy, probably everybody that’s earning below around £50,000, is going to be hit quite significantly. But this is really going to hit the poorest people the most.”
The Labour MP has spoken to one York woman who cares for her husband who is debilitated by a stroke and feels the cold really badly.
She told the MP she doesn’t know “whether or not her husband can stay at home” this winter – a ‘terrifying’ prospect many are facing.
Meanwhile charities and businesses are charged at a higher rate for their energy and will struggle to survive.
What can be done?
So what can be done? Labour is calling for an immediate freeze on the energy price cap, so bills won’t rise any further. “That saving of £1,000 pounds will make such a difference to the household budget,” Ms Maskell said.
It would be paid for by a big increase in tax on oil and gas company profits; by dropping the £400 energy rebate promised by the government; and by reducing inflation with lower energy bills, leading to a cut in government debt interest payments.
In the longer term, “we need to diversify away from Russian supply,” Ms Maskell said. This would mean “more renewable sources”.
She had this message: “I would say to anybody across York, don’t panic. But talk. There are mechanisms in place – oil and gas companies have got a legal responsibility to help people who are struggling with their energy bills.”
There’s also some local authority help available.
Ms Maskell encourages worried York Central constituents to ring her on 01904 63713 or email her via [email protected].
She sees this as “a widespread crisis impacting on the majority of people in our city. And we’re here to help”.
YorkMix has invited Julian Sturdy MP for Outer York to give his view on the crisis facing York people in his constituency.