A COUPLE of weeks ago I joked to a friend that I was going to look up the opening times of my local library so that come winter I could go there to keep warm instead of putting the heating on at home.

But it’s not a joke any more.

At the time of writing, the latest energy price cap estimate for next year is more than £6,000. And don’t forget, that figure is based on what is considered to be ‘average’ energy usage.

There are many millions of people in this country who use much, much more than the average.

According to the ITN website, experts have warned energy prices could spike from next April. Consultancy Auxilione predicted that the price cap on bills will gradually rise by more than £4,000 in the next eight months.

They said that the cap is expected to reach £3,576 in October, rising to £4,799 in January, and finally hitting £6,089 in April.

So maybe my idea to hunker down in the library to save some cash isn’t such a bad one after all. And according to The Observer, plans are already in place for libraries and museums to act as ‘warm havens’ for people unable to afford to heat their homes in the winter months.

Inevitably there is a problem with this.

As eye-wateringly expensive as the domestic energy price cap is, at least there’s a cap.

That’s not the case for all other businesses, local authorities, libraries and museums that will have to fork out the full whack.

Take, for example, the Catalyst Science Discovery Centre and Museum in Widnes which said last week that the quote for renewing its annual gas contract had risen from £9,700 to £54,362. That’s simply not sustainable.

As you will be aware, libraries and leisure centres in Warrington are run by LiveWire, a not-for-profit community interest company that saw its income drastically reduced when it had to shut up shop during the pandemic.

Now I dread to think what LiveWire’s energy bill is like – I wonder just how much it costs to heat a swimming pool.

LiveWire runs leisure and library services on behalf of the council and back in May this year, councillors approved a ‘one-off’ grant of up to £2.5 million in recognition of the financial challenges LiveWire faced due to the impact of Covid-19 and the ‘unprecedented increase’ in energy costs.

The Warrington Guardian reported at the time that LiveWire’s energy bill had gone up by £2million.

That was then and that increase in energy costs may have been unprecedented at the time but that rise will seem like pocket money in comparison to the increases just around the corner.

I don’t want to be a harbinger of doom but it’s hard to see how an organisation such as LiveWire can sustain such a rise, keep its lights on, swimming pools heated and doors open without extra support.

I don’t know where the money is going to come from but I do agree with the views of Isobel Hunter, the chief executive of Libraries Connected, which represents the public library sector, who said: “Central government should provide councils with additional funding this winter to meet rising energy costs, which would help ensure libraries stay open as vital warm refuges for their communities.”

If the money isn’t forthcoming, just where am I going to hunker down this winter I wonder?

On another topic, like many of you who live in the Warrington South constituency, I received a leaflet through my door from my MP Andy Carter entitled ‘Together we’re making progress’.

It was as self-congratulatory and self-regarding as you would expect and I don’t really have a problem with that. You wouldn’t expect him to put out a leaflet saying: ‘The Tory government is rubbish’.

But one thing did attract my attention.

One of the quotes stated: “Warrington South is a great place to live and work, that’s why I’m determined to create more local jobs that pay a good wage to support families across the region.”

That’s fair enough, Mr Carter but can I make a suggestion?

If you want to support local jobs and local businesses, perhaps the next time you are spending your money on a constituency-wide leafleting campaign, maybe it would be a good idea to find a printing company in Warrington to do the work rather than taking your business to a Manchester company.