A POTENTIAL rise in energy bills to more than £4,000 a year has been labelled as 'disastrous' by a leading Cumbria councillor.

According to consultancy Cornwall Insight, bills could rocket to £4,266 from January.

It would mean that the average household would be paying £355 a month - more than double the average of £164 a month currently. 

Cornwall Insight cited Ofgem's decision to change the price cap to every three months instead of six and higher wholesale prices as the basis for its forecast. 

Ofgem said no forecast for the next year could be 'robust' at this stage but with the war in Ukraine set to continue and winter approaching it is very likely that energy bills will go up even further than they are now.

Peter Thornton, the member for finance at Cumbria County Council, said it would lead to major problems.

"The forecast would mean everyone is going to have to find three thousand pounds more in the next year," he said.

"It is disastrous. There are people that can find two or three thousand pounds and there are people who cannot.

"The last time I worked it out there's around 250,000 households in Cumbria. With the sorts of increases we are talking about that's half a billion pounds a year. This is the equivalent of more than doubling council tax. We can only help the most vulnerable people.

"The government should take over the funding of the cap. That is a lot of money - it's 50 billion or so for the government but that is probably the only way."

Cllr Thornton was not impressed with Liz Truss's proposal to cut VAT and corporation tax, saying: "We tax the better off and we help the worse off. The Conservative leadership candidates are not coming up with any plans."

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Cumbria has a large elderly population, who rely more than others on heating over the winter.

Cllr Thornton said: "There are pensioners that are well off, there are people that have a very decent pension that can pay for it, but there are other pensioners that will turn the heating off and just stay in bed all day.

"It's going to be a very, very difficult winter."