As many Borderers switch on central heating for the first time in months, there are warnings of shocks ahead over subsequent energy bills.
Four of the big six energy companies have already announced inflation-busting price hikes and the remaining two are expected to follow suit.
But the firms are under growing pressure to justify the increases after figures from energy regulator Ofgem suggested profit margins per household have more than doubled in the last year.
A spokesperson for the Central Borders Citizens’ Advice Bureau (CAB) said staff are readying themselves to deal with an expected surge in worried clients when the next round of fuel bills drop through letter boxes.
“It’s still early days, but it’s starting to get colder and people are turning their heating on. And when they get that next bill, there will be many wondering how to pay both it and for food,” she said.
“Our advice is speak to us if you’re worried – don’t leave things until they get out of hand.”
Galashiels filling station worker Robert Gill will be typical of many local householders. He recently discovered his supplier, Scottish Power, was hiking the cost of both gas and electricity by 8.6 per cent, and a monthly service charge of 31.5p would also be levied for both.
For an average monthly bill of £120, Mr Gill told us, this meant an actual rise of 25 per cent in real terms.
“Is this not the most ridiculous and callous increase ever devised by anybody anywhere in the history of capitalism? What’s Ofgem thinking of?” he said.
Scottish Power blames rising costs of purchasing and delivering energy to homes, coupled to increased costs of compulsory schemes to reduce carbon emissions and improving energy efficiency of homes.
Asked to comment on Mr Gill’s situation, Scottish Power told The Southern: “We have had to simplify our pricing structure and reduce the number of different tariffs in line with Ofgem’s Retail Market Review reforms.
“From December 6 we will therefore have national standing charges consistent across fuel type and payment method.”
Local Conservative MSP John Lamont says many Borders residents will face similar huge bills in coming months.
“With winter weather starting to set in these problems will only get worse, and that’s why it is so important Borderers take action now to see their energy costs reduced as much as possible,” said Mr Lamont. “Even a few pence per unit could end up making a big difference, so it is vital that local residents use the help provided by the UK Government to shop around for the best price and switch provider.”