Three major energy suppliers are pushing up their prices yet again, forcing many families to wrap up in day blankets and romper suits to keep warm in their homes.
Onesies, blankets with sleeves and footwarmers are doing a roaring trade, marketed as a way of saving money on heating costs.
As winter sets in British Gas has announced an above-inflation price rise of 6 percent, with npower and SSE going further still with hikes of 9 percent.
It is estimated a typical family now pays around £1,300 a year to heat and light their home.
We spoke to families on the Marden Estate in North Shields and the vast majority were worried about meeting the costs of keeping warm this winter.
Child minder Jackie Howe said: “Items like onesies are fine, but they don’t keep your house warm. Every day the bills are getting higher and higher.”
With high levels of unemployment and wages below the national average, the North East has well-documented levels of fuel poverty, with those on benefits and low incomes worst-affected.
National Energy Action runs 14 Warm Zones in England in conjunction with local councils, offering free loft insulation, cavity wall insulation and advice on cutting energy bills to combat fuel poverty.
Four of them are in Tyne and Wear, in North Tyneside, Gateshead, South Tyneside and Newcastle. Northumberland is also a Warm Zone.
Energy and Climate Change Minister Greg Barker said that this winter's Energy Bill would be the biggest shake-up of the industry since privatisation and give extra teeth for regulator Ofgem to improve energy markets.
He said: "We are also rolling out the Green Deal this winter. This is the biggest ever energy efficiency programme, that will help millions improve their homes so they are better insulated.
"We have also brought in the Warm Home Discount, which will provide an extra £130 for two million of the most vulnerable households this winter."
Managing director of British Gas Phil Bentley defended the recent price rise. He said: "Unfortunately, we cannot run our business sustainably on lower margins and still make the investments in jobs and future energy sources that Britain needs, especially if the country is to grow its way out of recession."
In July, British Gas announced a 23 percent surge in profits. The company admitted that price rises in 2011 helped it rack up operating profit of £345m in the first half of 2012.
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