Winter is a time for festivities and celebration that many look forward to throughout the year.
However, it can also be a time of great anxiety, as costs mount up at this time of year, not least because of higher energy usage needed to keep homes warm.
As the cost of living remains high, so do energy bills. I know that many working families will have been resisting turning on the heating, but as temperatures plummet and areas of South Yorkshire see snowfall, this is no longer an option.
Last year, we saw heart-breaking cases of people desperately trying to keep costs down, including pensioners skipping meals to afford their heating bills, families unable to afford items of clothing to keep warm, and people even starting unsafe fires in their homes where they could not afford to turn on the heating.
People across Barnsley East contacted me to tell me about their experiences, which included sacrificing food so that their children could eat, sitting in dark homes to avoid electricity costs, and freezing in cold houses throughout the winter to avoid astronomical fuel costs.
The prospect of another cold and expensive winter is worrying to families across the country, but is particularly concerning in Barnsley, as 17.3 per cent of households were found to be living in fuel poverty earlier this year, compared with the national statistic of 13.1 per cent. Another cold snap will be too much to manage for many of these households.
The Government have not committed to taking any meaningful action to get bills down for families across the country. They have even admitted that their flagship energy plan will do nothing to lower costs.
This is unacceptable. A Labour Government would cut bills and make Britain energy secure through our Energy Independence Act. This would use clean, homegrown energy to bring prices down for good, while creating new jobs and rebuilding Britain’s energy landscape. Labour knows this is a huge problem for people across the country, and we would take effective action to lessen this burden.
If you live in Barnsley and need practical help right now to manage your energy bills, there are several organisations who can provide help.
Barnsley Council’s Warm Homes team can be found online, or on 01226 773366, and can help to make your home warmer and more energy efficient and help to manage energy costs and debt.
You can also contact Age UK Barnsley on 01226 776820 if you are a pensioner struggling with your household expenses.
I will continue to call on the Government to take meaningful action on the cost of living, so that people in Barnsley and across the country do not have to face impossible choices just to make it through the cold winter months.