Social Justice

'Devastating', 'horrifying', 'unthinkable': Think tanks urge action to protect households from energy price rises

Think tanks have called on the government to take immediate action as the energy price cap rises by 80 per cent.

A hand points to buttons on a gas boiler

The energy price cap rise will mean a huge increase in the cost of using gas boilers. Image: CORGI Home plan/Flickr

The 80 per cent increase in the energy price cap has been met with horror by think tanks and campaign groups, who have called on the government to provide emergency support.

The rise in energy bills announced by regulator Ofgem on Friday means average energy costs will pass £3,500 a year on October 1, up from £1,277 at the start of the year. 

Katie Schmuecker, principal policy adviser for the anti-poverty Joseph Rowntree Foundation said: “It is simply unthinkable that the price rises announced today can go ahead without further government intervention on a significant scale. 

“To force the burden of rising wholesale energy prices onto households will plunge many into destitution. Millions more will face the threat of bills they simply cannot pay, homes they cannot heat and stomachs they cannot fill.”

Government ministers were notable in their absence as the news broke on Friday morning, with no representatives appearing on morning TV or radio to issue statements or plans for support around the increase which could be catastrophic for families.

Schmuecker called for action on the same scale as as the start of the pandemic, including “a comprehensive emergency package to cover the period of these extreme price rises, just as they did so creatively and quickly with furlough”.

Luke Murphy, associate director for energy and climate at the IPPR think tank, said: “This hike in energy prices will be devastating for many families. Many people simply won’t be able to pay, and others would be forced to choose whether their families go cold or hungry.”

As well as immediate support for families in the form of price freezes or support packages, Murphy called for long-term plans to address the country’s reliance on fossil fuels and their volatile prices.

“That means a big expansion in clean energy and a national home upgrade and insulation programme to make all our homes warmer and our energy bills cheaper.”

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has repeatedly refused to intervene, insisting the matter should be dealt with by the new prime minister, who will take office on September 5.

Writing in the Daily Mail, front runner and Foreign Secretary Liz Truss promised to “take decisive action… to provide immediate support” if she is elected new leader of the Conservative party.

Analysis by the Resolution Foundation revealed, however, that her proposals would benefit richer households far more than poorer households.

Derek Mitchell, chief executive of Citizens Advice Scotland, said the increase should not go ahead, calling it “absolutely horrifying for people who are hanging on by a thread financially”.

“The frightening truth is that people face the very real prospect of freezing or starving this winter without help. We already see a link between demand for energy advice and food insecurity advice, demand for both is rising – even before the weather turns cold.”

Dame Clare Moriarty, chief executive of Citizens Advice, said: “Every day our advisers help people in desperate situations: people who can’t get to the end of the month without a food bank voucher, parents unable to afford nappies and patients with no credit to call their GP.

‘‘Without more support, the soundtrack to winter will be the beeping of emergency prepayment meter credit running out and the click of lights and appliances being turned off. 

“We need a plan not platitudes. Government support has to match the scale of this crisis, there must be a financial lifeline for those who need it most.”

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