A Reading resident has revealed they haven’t turned on their heating in five years because they can’t afford it.

It comes as the Chronicle has been investigating the true cost of escalating utilities bills this winter and the impact it’s having on our community. 

With energy bills set to rise again in January, and temperatures dropping as winter sets in, some Reading residents have thus been preparing for another Winter of deprivation.

Although energy bills are just one factor affecting quality of life, some say it is the first thing to go when cutting back.

After speaking to some people who have been affected by the cost of living, I discovered the severity of rising energy costs has been found to have a detrimental effect on people’s health.

This is particularly true with elderly people who may be hesitant to ask for help.

Whilst visiting the charity, New Beginnings, I spoke to some residents who regularly frequent the warm bank and food bank at the Queen’s Arms pub.

Set up to support those in need as energy bills and food costs rise, the charity offers a variety of services including hot drinks, warm meals and a place to warm up during the day.

It was a shock to find that many people in Reading have chosen to not use their heating at all and instead find a variety of different options for keeping warm.

One resident from the Oxford Road explained that he hasn’t switched his heating on for five years due to the extortionate costs.

The 53-year-old DHL worker, David, said that when he has additional unexpected costs to pay, it is impossible to cover everything.

He said: “I know that because energy costs are cheaper at night, people are getting up, putting their heating on, and doing their washing at 2 am to avoid the increased energy costs during the day.

“A lot of people now are turning towards using electric heaters to heat their homes, which turn out to be more expensive and less efficient in the end.

“It all comes round to cost-of-living. Heating and energy costs are part of it but ultimately it’s everything from rent increases to the increase in food prices.

“In the Summer it’s fine because heating isn’t needed but we get to these colder months I can see the difference.”

A resident from Whitley Street who also frequents the warm bank spoke about his outrage that elderly residents are supposedly being forced to choose between buying food or turning their heating on during the Winter months.

He explained: “There are so many people across Reading that are in trouble when it comes to surviving over the winter months. Without heating you simply can’t operate and there are elderly people in Reading and across the UK that go undetected because they are on their own.

“The cost is just going up and up, and that’s especially true if you live in an uninsulated house and need heating.”

He added: “I have spoken to people who work in different hospitals, and they have told me about different situations where elderly persons came in because a lack of heating and food had caused them harm.

“All they needed was a few days of hot meals and a warm shower. It is ridiculous.”

Despite the effect that a rise in heating bills is having on some Reading residents, homelessness charities have said that energy costs are not one of the main issues for people struggling in the Berkshire town.

A spokesperson for Launchpad Reading said: “Whilst high gas and electricity bills are making it much harder for many people to make ends meet, this is not a common reason that people are using our drop-in service.  

“We’ve seen a big rise numbers of visitors recently, over a 40% increase on last year. However, this is largely down to refugees leaving government accommodation with nowhere to go and Reading’s very high rents pricing many under 25-year-olds out of the rental market.”