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Gordon Brown calls for 'urgent action' to boost universal credit as petition reaches 140,000

Universal credit payments to the UK's poorest could be swallowed whole by energy bills if new PM Liz Truss doesn't take action

Gordon Brown wears a red tie and suit and talks to a woman with one hand outstretched

Toothpaste and soap are becoming luxury items, writes Gordon Brown. Image: fotologic/Flickr

Former prime minister Gordon Brown has called for an emergency budget from new PM Liz Truss to increase universal credit alongside the expected freeze on energy bills to tackle the cost of living crisis.

More than 140,000 people have signed a petition put forward by Brown and a coalition of anti-poverty groups, including the Big Issue, urging immediate action to support the UK’s poorest as inflation hits double figures.

Average energy bills already make up more than half of the standard allowance for a single person on universal credit under 25, and will be swallowed entirely by energy costs if the proposed increase to the price cap goes ahead.

“Until those who face poverty are given proper protection, thousands upon thousands of British people will continue to demand urgent action to end the cost of living crisis,” Brown told the Big Issue.

The energy price cap for October was announced at the end of August, sending typical household bills from £1,971 to £3,549, an increase of 80 per cent.

Truss is expected to announce a freeze on energy bills on Thursday, keeping them at their current level, as one of her first acts since being named the new prime minister on Monday.

In a speech following her win in a drawn out drawn out contest to lead the Conservative party, Truss said: “I will deliver on the energy crisis, dealing with people’s energy bills but also dealing with the long-term issues we have on energy supply.”

Campaigners have been calling for action from the government across 2022 as inflation reached 10 per cent in July and energy costs tripled since the start of the year.

Sam Tims, of the New Economics Foundation, told the Big Issue in August the “next prime minister should align social security to the cost of living while scrapping the benefit cap, two child limit and deductions from universal credit”.

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