Citizens Advice 1066 offers free advice on energy issues

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This week has seen the fourth Big Energy Saving Week, a national campaign run by Citizens Advice to help people reduce their energy costs.

Over the winter months Citizens Advice 1066 based in London Road, St Leonards will provide free advice sessions on how people can save energy and cut their bills.

It will also help to identify and make applications to various charities for people who have energy debts and are unable to clear the arrears. In the last year the bureau has helped 349 people struggling with energy bills. Among the many issues raised were problems with too infrequent or inaccurate meter readings, getting onto a cheaper tariff and switching supplier. Many reported having to cut back on essential items as they struggle to make ends meet, with over a third of enquiries involving households with children. Of particular concern today are householders opting to go onto prepayment meters. Often seen as a logical step for those finding it difficult to manage their finances, prepayment meters can be a double-edged sword. They often come with little or no choice of tariff and a lack of “top-up” options. Users do not benefit from the discounts available with direct debit payments. More crucially, prepayment customers can often “self–disconnect” by going without gas or electricity as a way of saving money, when disconnection is the last resort for other customers with arrears. High energy bills don’t always have to lead to financial hardship or being cut off. Like the pensioner who approached the local bureau with unusually high meter readings. Advisers were able to persuade the energy company to test his meter for faults, write-off some of his bill and arrange a manageable payment plan. Over the coming weeks an adviser from Citizens Advice 1066 will be talking to local community groups to show how consumers can check if they are on the best tariff and switch if they are not and change their supplier.

Dina Christodoulou, chief executive of Citizens Advice 1066, said: “People can potentially save hundreds of pounds on their bills by making small lifestyle changes, installing energy saving measures or by choosing the right tariff and payment plans for them. But working through the different options can be a minefield. Our advisers can help people to better understand the options and find the best solution for them.” For more information call the CAB on 721420 or visit www.citizensadvice1066.co.uk