Soaring inflation has plunged the UK into a severe cost of living crisis.
The rising costs of food, energy and fuel have led many people across the UK, particularly those on low incomes, to make significant changes to their lives.
In June, a report by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation found that since the start of 2022, 7 million low-income households had either gone without food in the last 30 days or gone without at least one essential, such as a warm enough home.
As winter approaches, many people will be forced into making difficult decisions about their energy spending.
Survey of Londoners
The Greater London Authority (GLA) recently published the results of a survey of Londoners taken last winter, from November 2021-Feburary 2022.
The results show that a significant proportion of Londoners already have difficulty heating their homes.
13 per cent of Londoners aged over 16 said they would not be able to keep their homes warm enough during winter.
Lower-income Londoners were much more likely than the higher income Londoners to report being unable to keep their home warm enough in winter.
Others who may particularly struggle in winter include single parents and disabled Londoners. Both groups fared poorly on most, if not all, of the economic insecurity measures from the survey.
These are shocking numbers on their own. But they are likely to have gotten much worse since last year.
The energy cost crisis for Londoners
Londoners face some particular challenges as energy prices rise, especially in winter.
Many of London’s homes are already ill-suited for harsh winters, particularly older Victorian housing stock, which often has solid, non-insulated walls, requiring more energy to heat.
This type of housing can be a key contributor to fuel poverty in London. A common definition of fuel poverty is when a household is living in a home with an inefficient energy rating, as well as being left below the poverty line after heating costs.
Things are already hard for Londoners: the city has a high cost of living, which is getting worse with inflation.
The price cap and levelling up in London
In August, Ofgem announced that from the 1 October, most people would pay about £1,570 more per year for gas and electricity, increasing the energy price cap to £3,549 per year for an average household.
In September, the government introduced their own ‘Energy Price Guarantee’ scheme to replace Ofgem’s original October cap, meaning that the typical household in England, Scotland and Wales would now pay an average of £2,500 a year on their energy bills. This aimed to save the typical household at least £1,000 a year based on the energy prices from October.
Yet despite this scheme, many households will still struggle to afford their energy bills this winter due to the rising cost of living. This will especially be the case for low-income earners, who already spend a larger proportion of their income on essentials like housing, energy, and food compared to those on higher incomes.
As part of our project on levelling up, we have been calling attention to London’s major challenges, which must not be overlooked by central government.
The fact that many Londoners are living in fuel poverty and may be unable to heat their homes this winter showcases the extent of inequality in the city, and sheds light on the fact that London has its own acute levelling up needs.