COUNCILLORS blasted a budget they said would leave residents ‘petrified’ to keep the heating running this winter as the cost of gas and electricity sky-rockets.

At a fiery Basildon Housing and Estate Renewal Committee meeting councillors grilled council officers over their draft service budget for council housing.

The budget, which was presented to councillors on November 23, failed to include provisions to protect council tenants from rapidly-rising fuel costs and instead only budgeted for inflation.

Gas and electricity prices have surged, with regulator Ofgem last month increasing the energy price cap by 12 per cent.

Conservative councillor Phil Turner turned on council officers to demand an explanation on why the budget for 2022/23 did not reflect the energy crisis.

“The fuel crisis is real, I have seen it in my charges at home. I have just been told that my charges are likely to go up by at least a third if not half again. So, the same thing happens to residents through council housing, sheltered accommodation for example, and we charge that on,” Cllr Turner said.

A council officer responded. “At the moment, we haven’t made any significant adjustments for fuel prices we have just got a year-on-year inflationary increase… increased fuel costs that will come through over the next 12 months, they will be reflected in the service charges in the future financial year. We will not be adjusting the service charges for this year.”

Cllr Turner angrily told the officer he was “too late” adding: “The fuel crisis is happening. It’s not good enough. Why is it not in the budget? Why has it not been factored in?”

Other councillors shared Cllr Turner’s concerns.

“A resident of mine, him, his wife and four children couldn’t afford a hot bath, and they had to go around to his mother-in-law’s,” said Cllr Kerry Smith.

“We shouldn’t allow anyone to be petrified about the bill that will land on their doormat, through no fault of their own, if they keep on the heating or use their gas boilers to heat water.”

Labour leader Jack Ferguson said: “For many of our residents across the borough, paying the food bill or paying the energy bill is a real challenge.

“Tonight we had an opportunity to respond to those concerns and the very idea that people at home who are concerned about whether they should pay the food bill or top-up the electric, are they going to have to wait another year to find out the truth of what they’re actually going to be paying for?”

Councillors refused to endorse the presented budget and told council officers to come back with a revised plan at a later date.