RISING energy bills, food prices and transport costs have put Hampshire on ‘red alert’ – with concerns raised by Citizens Advice Hampshire about how residents will be able to cope with ever-increasing living costs.

It comes as inflation reaches 5.5 per cent, and while energy prices look set to increase by £693 per year for the average household.

Council tax is also set to increase in Hampshire, with councils, police and crime commissioner and fire service all announcing tax hikes for residents.

Jo Hillier, chief executive of Citizens Advice Hampshire, says more people are asking them for help now than at any point during the Covid-19 pandemic. She said: “Demand for support from Citizens Advice across Hampshire is now at a ‘red alert’ level.

“We are very busy delivering crisis support to individuals and families in the form of referrals to food banks, advice on emergency one-off grants and fuel vouchers or energy grants.

“Hampshire residents are seeking one-to-one support from Citizens Advice more now than any other point during the pandemic.”

The government has announced a £200 discount on energy bills in autumn for electricity customers – but this will be paid back over the next five years – plus a £150 council tax rebate for those in Band A-D properties.

A total of £144m has also been given to local authorities to support households who need help but are not eligible for a council tax rebate.

But Citizens Advice fears these temporary solutions will not help households that are already counting the pennies.

Jo said: “People seeking advice on managing their energy debts has escalated over the past two months. Advisors are spending time reviewing people’s budgets to see where savings can be made but with prices rising for the majority, there is nothing left to cut – households are facing enormous pressures.”