Menu Menu

Opinion – Lydia Millen’s posts show severity of winter wealth gap

As the energy crisis in Britain continues to soar, many have spent the last few months contemplating how to afford staying warm this winter. Lydia Millen is not one of them.

In the last two months alone, the UK has seen ‘the average energy bill cap’ double, the National Grid warning of imminent power blackouts to conserve energy, and the country opening the doors to its first ever ‘warm banks’.

This, however, is just the beginning of what is set to be a grim winter, with the government preparing to announce more emergency measures in the next few weeks.

Thousands of households have already been hit hard by rising energy costs and the resulting struggle to heat their homes.

So last week, when British influencer Lydia Millen took to TikTok to share how she would be checking into The Savoy (a luxury hotel charging a minimum of £635 per night), as the heating in her home was ‘broken’, many were rightfully outraged.

To somehow make matters worse, she did not read the room and chose to respond to critiques with her own positive affirmations.

One user commented how her heating was off because she couldn’t ‘afford to put it on’, with Millen responding that her ‘heart breaks’ but ‘other people’s realities are different and that’s not wrong’.

Whilst a university student added that they ‘hadn’t been home to see their dad since August’ and were ‘living off plain pasta’ due to rising living costs. Millen responded that they should ‘enjoy (this time)’, and in fact, she wished she had enjoyed her own time at university more.

The influencer’s remarks led to immense backlash, as she went on to post sponsored content detailing how she was ‘going to make full use of their wonderful hot water’, whilst giving viewers a rundown of her outfit for The Savoy, worth tens of thousands of pounds.

The video, whilst incredibly tone deaf, is not in itself wrong. Influencers have mastered the digital art of coming across as relatable, while posting snapshots of their lifestyles that remain out of reach for majority of their audiences.


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Lydia (@lydiamillen)

It does successfully highlight how we as a nation will all be experiencing this winter’s energy crisis differently.

Over the last few months, many households have had to learn the ins and outs of their energy tariffs, ensure they take a deep breath before opening the gas and electric bill, and ration use of heating to only the coldest days the weather forecast has to offer.

The energy crisis is impacting lower income households more drastically, with many now choosing whether they should ‘heat or eat’ this winter.

It has reached a point where remaining warm and fuelling our homes has become a luxury, and it’s not something everyone can afford to do consistently, or at all. Britain’s leading fuel poverty charity National Energy Action, estimates that almost 6.7 million households will this year be unable to heat their homes due to rising costs.

Fuel poverty stands to affect low income households and those with long term illnesses and disabilities more greatly, who in recent years have seen their ‘income drop by over £1000 per year, due to changes in Universal Credit’, and as a result of rising inflation rates.

Former Prime Minister Gordon Brown called this the ‘worst winter in living memory’ for Britain’s poorest. Now, without further intervention from the government, it will only stand to get worse.

The Savoy influencer is just one example of the tiers of privilege that exist in the British housing economy.

Those who rent their homes privately or from councils and housing associations – compared to those who own their homes – will all face stark differences over the impact of the energy crisis this winter. This gap widens considerably when you factor in varying energy prices across different regions of the UK.

The government may have introduced price caps for the amount energy companies can charge, but this will only benefit those paying via direct debit, and instead increase costs for those on prepayment metres which are largely used in rental properties.

It seems as a nation we’re all aware that government funded support will reach full capacity, and so councils and charities have taken it upon themselves to help some of Britain’s most vulnerable.

Public buildings such as libraries and art galleries will open themselves up as ‘warm banks’, acting ‘as refuges for people who cannot afford to heat homes’, similar to that of a food bank.

As temperatures continue to plumet, many of us will be forced to redefine heat as a luxury and not a necessity this festive season.

For those of us who lack the same disposable income (and of course, PR deals) as influencers such as Lydia Millen, we will be seeking out alternative ways to stay warm throughout winter and keep costs low. Afterall, we can’t all check into a luxury hotel whenever our heating gives out.