January’s view from Westminster.

Andrew Jones writes a monthly column for the Advertiser series of newspapers. Below is the January article.

I know the cost of living is the most important issue for many people. That is why I want to share the continuing support available in 2023 and how we can act to ensure lower fuel bills.

While most are seeing £400 gradually coming off energy bills this is not the case for all. Park home residents for example, who often have more complex arrangements for their energy, have waited while a scheme is set up to match this support. This should be up and running by the end of January.

Less well-off households have seen additional support and the chancellor is looking at how best to target support in the next financial year. Although support for energy bills is significant there are other measures which are making a difference. Benefits and state pensions are rising with inflation, the price cap continues and the National Living Wage will increase by around ten per cent from April. The latter means a pay increase of up to £1,600 for two million full-time workers. This is in addition to the reduction to National Insurance payments which came into force in November.

Until at least the end of March there is also a cap on single bus tickets of £2 with participating operators. This includes the main routes run by the Harrogate Bus Company and Connexions. It is a difficult time for bus operators, as many of us will have seen with recent changes to some routes, so now is the time to use it or risk losing it.

These schemes will ensure households are shielded from much of the rise in bills predicted because suppliers had to buy wholesale gas as the prices spiked. Rising bills have though brought into sharp focus the need to reduce our energy consumption and boost home-grown alternatives to foreign oil and gas for producing electricity.

That is why, I have asked ministers to bring forward greener building regulations for new homes and commercial buildings, why I have helped constituents who have applied for home energy efficiency upgrades and why I backed Harrogate College’s successful bid for £16m from the Government to revamp their campus to teach the green courses of the future. We can lower our consumption of energy and reduce household bills if we take action ourselves and if the Government prioritises low carbon generation of electricity. This has the added benefit of reducing domestic carbon emissions which account for around 40 per cent of the UK’s total.

Lower energy bills may not happen for some time. Now is therefore a good time to look at the schemes available to lower bills by boosting your home’s efficiency. Your energy provider or the Government’s Help to Heat website has more information on this. We can all act now to lower our emissions, boost our energy independence and, crucially, save money for years to come.