Below is some information about energy bills, including examples of the help available for getting better deals on your bills, and debt management advice and support that could be available so you are not paying more for your energy and water bills than you have to. We also have a new winter warmth service.
Collective switching scheme
Reduce your energy bills through the power of bulk buying – the more people join, the more you might save!
We support the Cambridgeshire Collective Switching Scheme, which has saved local people an average of more than £200 per year.
- Sign up for free
- An auction is held to see which energy suppliers offer the best deals
- You are not under any obligatin to switch
The next auction takes place on 13 February. Go to the Cambridgeshire Collective Switching Scheme to find out more and sign up.
Price comparison websites
There are many price comparison websites out there. To make it easier for consumers to get a better deal on their gas and electricity bills Ofgem who are the independent national regulator for energy companies have developed an online guide to assist consumers with comparing energy tariffs. This can be accessed at www.goenergyshopping.co.uk.
In addition they have adopted the Confidence Code which they adapted from Consumer Focus in 2013. Comparison websites signed up to this code agree to operate to a set of principles as outlined by Ofgem. A list of the sites that are members can be found on the Ofgem website - confidence code pages.
Another source of information is the Citizens Advice Bureau which has comprehensive information on switching energy suppliers and finding the best deals for electricity, gas and water using price comparison websites.
Do note that not all energy companies offer the Warm Home Discount Scheme (see below for details). So to receive this discount customers must fulfil eligibility criteria and be the customer of a company running this scheme.
Winter warmth advice service
All Cambridge residents are eligible to access free household energy advice, and to book a free home energy advice visit from an impartial advisor, through a new service called ‘Winter Warmth’. Cambridge City Council, in partnership with the environmental charity PECT, will provide households with the information and resources needed to stay warm and healthy, whilst cutting costs.
Residents can also be provided with a free energy ‘goodie bag’, advice on choosing the best energy tariff and supplier, help to heat their home efficiently, assistance to access the national Warm Home Discount scheme, worth up to £140, and information about further available grant funding for home energy improvements.
Social Tariffs are designed to reduce fuel costs and are only available to ‘vulnerable’ and/or low income customers.
All energy providers offer social tariffs to help their most vulnerable customers cope with the high costs of gas and electricity. According to Ofgem rules, all social tariffs must equal the supplier's cheapest deals.
Cambridge Water recently introduce a social tariff - see Assure tariff below .
Financial support for paying bills
Priority Services Register
The Priority Services Register was set up for vulnerable customers. These customers are eligible for free services from gas and electricity companies if they meet certain criteria.
If the customer is of pensionable age, disabled, chronically sick, blind or visually impaired, then they can apply to join the Priority Service Register.
Warm Home Discount
Provides direct help with energy costs to pensioners on a low income and people receiving certain benefits. In 2015/2016 it was a one of payment of £140. The scheme is also being funded for 2016/17. Customers should contact their energy company for information.
Cold Weather Payments
Payable to those receiving certain means tested benefits. A payment of £25 is paid for each 7 day period of cold weather (the local temperature is either recorded as, or forecast to be, an average of zero degrees Celsius or below over 7 consecutive days) between 1 November and 31 March.
Winter Fuel Payments
Universal pensioner benefit to help towards the cost of heating bills of between £100 and £300 tax free. Most payments are made automatically between November and December.
Cambridge Water special tariffs
Cambridge Water offers a number of special tariffs to support low income households. See if you are eligible for a special tariff on the Cambridge Water website, or contact Cambridge Water by phone on 01223 706050.
Cambridge Water Direct
A scheme where payment for water bills is deducted directly from benefits. You may be eligible if you are in debt to your water company and in receipt of certain benefits.
Social Funds and Charitable Trusts
Energy and water companies contribute to support funds (independently run social funds and charitable trusts set up to help clear customer’s energy and water debts and provide support and advice on how to manage debt in the future. An example is Charis grants.
Further information on all of the above including eligibility criteria visit the following links:
Help for those struggling to pay
All energy and water companies provide ways to help customers who are struggling to pay and in some cases can even offer reduced bills. The sooner you speak to your provider the better so you can agree a more suitable repayment plan. Companies have obligations relating to debt and how they deal with consumers including flexibility in payment frequency, payment method or the option for special arrangements. Some sources of help for managing debt include:
Money Advice Service is a free and impartial money advice resource set up by the government to help you make the most of your money. Their 5 minute ‘financial health check’ assesses your finances confidentially, with practical advice on how to improve them, tailored to your situation
Cambridge Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB) provides free, independent and confidential advice on a whole range of issues including money and debt advice.
Cambridge Water offers support to people struggling to pay water bills through flexible payment options and access to debt and money advisors.
Step Change Debt Charity provides free and tailored advice on all areas of debt.
Age UK Cambridgeshire is an independent charitable organisation which supports people over the age of 65. They can provide advice on keeping your warm home, information on benefits and advice on debt management. Following the link for information on Help with Winter Heating Costs.