Cost of Living Crisis: Scots could be overcharged for energy if they do not submit meter readings ahead of energy price cap hike, Energy Action Scotland warns

Scots could end up paying more than £14 a week for historic gas usage if they do not submit meter readings a day before the energy price cap rises, a Scottish energy body has warned.

As the price cap is set to increase by 54% on April 1, Energy Action Scotland is urging Scots to submit accurate electricity and gas meter readings on March 31.

The body calculated Scotland will pay at least an additional £4.5 million a day across 2.4 million households if people do not provide up to date meter readings for both gas and electricity.

Following the price cap hike, the average energy price for a household in Scotland is expected to rise from £3.50 to £5.40 a day which could amount to roughly £2 a day for an average household.

Energy Action Scotland is urging Scots to submit accurate meter readings a day ahead of the day the energy price cap rises to avoid paying more for historic gas usage (Photo: John Devlin).

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Frazer Scott, the CEO of Energy Action Scotland said: "The risk is people could overpay and they shouldn’t be overpaying so we are encouraging people to do their meter readings on March 31.

"£2 a day is a really important amount because some of our lowest income households struggle to get by every day so for them it is so important to not overpay to survive.

"If they are out by a week that’s £14 and it’s money people need to have in their pockets to pay for important essential items rather than overpaying for energy.”

Mr Scott said “it is not clear what protections are in place” for households if they do not conduct a meter reading on the price cap rise day and “there is every chance they could be overcharged.”

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Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak is to announce the Spring Finance Budget on Wednesday. He is understood to have drawn up a range of options to help with the cost of living crisis, including a 1p cut to income tax, raising the national insurance threshold and a significant cut to fuel duty.

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Why the cost-of-living crisis is a test of SNP priorities

The chancellor said it was now “more important than ever” to take a responsible approach to the public finances.

Mr Sunak said: “With inflation and interest rates still on the rise, it’s crucial that we don’t allow debt to spiral and burden future generations with further debt.

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“Look at our record, we have supported people – and our fiscal rules mean we have helped households while also investing in the economy for the longer term.”

However, concern is that measures taken by the chancellor and UK Government will not be good enough.

Mr Scott said politicians have been “absolutely tone deaf” to the cost of living crisis.

He said: "I find it quite staggering the UK Government hasn’t acted sooner to alleviate the fears people face as the consequence of that is a decline in people’s well-being.

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"Incredible numbers of people are going to advice services and this is before we hit April and this is simply to deal with £350 increase over the last 12 months.

"I don’t think Government has been listening or what the social impact will be because of this.

"We already see thousands of people die in excess winter deaths – approximately a thousand of those deaths are directly associated with living in fuel poverty and that’s 2019 levels

"That can only mean more pressure will be put on the health service and potentially significantly higher excess winter mortality. That’s a price I don’t believe we should be paying.

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"Government needs to act now.”

Energy Action Scotland is urging Rishi Sunak to zero rate essential energy, to move the green levies from bills to general taxation and to tax the excessive profits of oil and gas giants.

Mr Scott said an update on the Warm Home discount which could give an individual £140 off their electricity bill is also needed for Scotland.

"From April 1, we will all be paying for discount within our bills but we still don’t know how that’s going to be deployed in Scotland,” Mr Scott said, “Domestic households, many of whom were struggling pre-pandemic are struggling even more now with the removal of universal credit uplift, we are looking at changes in taxation coming in April as well as these huge price rises.

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"By October, our energy prices will have gone up by 200% from 2019 to 2020 – that just seem incredible and we are still one of the richest countries in the world and this does not feel in any way fair.”

Mr Scott also said the level of crisis funding the Scottish Government has provided within it’s budget is “inadequate” and “won’t touch the sides” of the issues people have.

He said Scotland needs to “redouble efforts” on insulating people’s homes to reduce consumption and create greater levels of comfort for less cost.

People could be provided “safe and secure” support such as reflective foils behind radiators and draught-excluders being rolled out “at scale and at a low cost”, Mr Scott suggested.

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He added the Scottish Government support has not targeted people such as the “ultra vulnerable” who have essential medical equipment.

Calling for Mr Sunak to “take action” in his Spring statement, Scottish Finance secretary Kate Forbes said Scotland is doing “all we can” to ensure people, communities and businesses are given as much support as possible to deal with the rising cost of living.

The minister said: “The Scottish Government is up-rating eight Scottish benefits by 6% from 1 April as well as doubling our Scottish Child Payment from £10 per week per eligible child to £20.

"We are using our powers to help those who need us most in these difficult times and it is time for the UK Government to follow our lead and uprate social security benefits by 6%.

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“I would also ask for further immediate support to be delivered through the Cold Weather Payment, with an additional payment now and another next winter when we know energy bills will have risen again.”

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