west Devon householders and businesses already struggling to pay their bills are facing steep rises in their energy bills this autumn which could tip many into crisis.

Local people will be presented with bills of a quarter of the average local wages when the Government lifts the price cap on energy companies in October.

Among those affected is advertising executive Kerry Halfyard, from Lifton.

She has already been threatened with the bailiffs by her energy provider because she is in arrears – and says many others are in the same boat.

She appeared on Radio 1 news programme Newsbeat to share her story last week.

Kerry said: ‘I’ve just had my recent bill that I can’t afford to pay until payday. The letter said they could come to the house if I hadn’t paid by August 7 so I’ve tried to ring and say I get paid on the 14th, but there are just no allowances being made and I just don’t think that is fair.’

She has since settled the bill, but said the situation for her and many others in West Devon was set to get worse when the Government’s price cap on the energy companies is lifted in October.

‘They reckon the average bill is due to rise to £3,600 a year. Where I live that is a quarter of someone’s wages, so how they are expecting people to live I have no idea.’

The price cap – the maximum amount that energy companies can charge is customers – is due to rise from £2,000 to around £3,500 from the beginning of October and then even higher in January.

This is likely to tip many into further debt particularly as collectively, UK households are currently £1.3 billion in debt to energy companies.

In Okehampton, landlord Simon Chudley, from The London Inn, said his electricity bill is set to rise threefold from September.‘My fixed term contract is coming to an end in September and I looked for prices to renew. At the moment I pay 16p a unit and I am looking at that rising to 47p a unit for electricity, so just under three times what it is now.

‘My electricity bills at the moment are £1,200 and I’m looking at them rising to £3,000 on that front, that gives some indication of what we are facing.

He said this would inevitably have to be passed on to customers, although he aims to keep this as low as possible.

‘Even with the price increases, we are under £4 a pint because of the volumes we sell. We sell a lot of beer, so 10p or 20p on a pint will give me that difference to raise the electric. It does mean, though, that whereas I’ve had spare money recently to sponsor some of the local sports clubs, I won’t be able to do that any more.’

He said he was also concerned about his custmers. ‘Martin Lewis [of website MoneySaving Expert] has been saying just pay what you can afford, but I don’t see how that will help , as it will just push people into debt. People are going to start getting the bailiffs and debt collectors around. The stress on the average household is going to be massive.

‘Everything is going up and up in price and the less and less they have got, the less they have got to spend on beer. But, saying that, we have got some very loyal customers in the 13 years we thave been here. We are quite established. But for those in the first year of business, they are not going to cope.’

He said customers struggling to heat their homes would be welcome to sit by his fire this winter all day if they wanted, with the purchase of just one cup of coffee, refilled as many ties as they wanted.

‘We open at 10 in the morning until midnight and when the fire is on in the winter it might be cheaper to come in and socialise. It might also bring people together and stop loneliness.’