Nearly one in four adults plan never to turn their heating on this winter, polling suggests, as average energy bills are set to surge while the temperature drops over the coming months.
The survey of more than 2,000 UK adults found 23% would not turn their heating on at all over the winter months, with this figure rising to 27% among parents with children under 18.
In the poll, which was carried out by Savanta ComRes before the new price cap was announced, 69% of respondents said they would switch their heating on less, and one in 10 said they would take out a loan.
It comes amid resounding warnings that people are in for a dire winter, with the energy price cap set to rise by 80% by October, pushing the average household’s yearly bill up from £1,971 to £3,549.
Chancellor Nadhim Zahawi has said he is working “flat out” to draw up options for a plan of action for the next prime minister so they can “hit the ground running” when they take office in September.
But the government is under increasing pressure to do more now, as neither Tory leadership candidate has set out in full how they would help people ahead of the contest’s conclusion.
Liz Truss – the favourite to succeed Boris Johnson as prime minister – has so far only confirmed she will cut National Insurance and green levies on bills.The Liberal Democrats, who commissioned the survey, warned families are being forced to make “heartbreaking decisions”, with the country “on the brink of the worst cost-of living-crisis in a century”.
The party is calling for ministers to scrap the energy price cap rise in October, funded partly by a further windfall tax on oil and gas companies.
Christine Jardine, the Lib Dems’ Cabinet Office spokeswoman, said: “Families and pensioners across the country are making heart-breaking decisions because the government has failed to save them.
“It is a national scandal that parents are having to choose between heating their homes and feeding their children. It shouldn’t be like this.
“Britain is on the brink of the worst cost-of-living crisis in a century and yet still Liz Truss and Rishi Sunak will not scrap the energy price rise. It is clear energy prices must not be allowed to rise in October.”
Ms Jardine said an “economic catastrophe” is now “just a month away”, blaming a “zombie government in Westminster, and two leadership contenders living on another planet”.
“It is time to tax the record multibillion pound profits of oil and gas companies and use the money to save British families and pensioners,” she said.
Ofgem recently announced it would review the price cap every three months instead of twice annually, sparking fears of consecutive bills hikes.The cap is the maximum price that households on their supplier’s default tariff would have to pay for every unit of gas and electricity they used for the next three months.
It is calculated based on the wholesale price of gas and electricity and also includes allowances for tax, charges paid to the energy networks, green levies and social payments.
All households in Britain will get a £400 rebate on energy bills, with low income and vulnerable households receiving an additional £650, but more radical intervention is being called for as opposition to the hikes grow.
A government spokesperson said: “We know people are incredibly worried about rising energy bills, following unprecedented gas prices across the continent driven by global events, including (Vladimir) Putin’s aggression in Ukraine and his weaponisation of energy in Europe.
“Direct support will continue to reach people’s pockets in the weeks and months ahead, targeted at those who need it most like low-income households, pensioners and those with disabilities.
“As part of our £37 billion package of help for households, one in four of all UK households will see £1,200 extra support, provided in instalments across the year, and everyone will receive a £400 discount on their energy bills over winter.
“The Civil Service is also making the appropriate preparations in order to ensure that any additional support or commitments on cost of living can be delivered as quickly as possible when the new prime minister is in place.”