Martin Lewis says government must double energy bill help for poorest


Ministers will need to at least double the amount of support given last time to help protect the poorest households from rising energy bills, the consumer rights campaigner Martin Lewis has said.

In February, the then chancellor, Rishi Sunak, now vying for the Conservative party leadership, announced that eligible UK households would receive a £400 discount to help with energy bills from October.

Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, Lewis said: “We’ve heard mutterings from the Rishi Sunak camp that he would increase the previous handouts that were given … but if he were to be consistent he would have to essentially double every number in that package.

“He will effectively need, if he wants to make this work, to double the numbers, especially for the poorest.”

The chancellor, Nadhim Zahawi, and the business secretary, Kwasi Kwarteng, will ask gas and electricity company executives to submit a breakdown of expected profits and payouts as well as investment plans for the next three years.

Lewis also criticised proposals from the other Tory leadership contender, Liz Truss, which focused on tax cuts as a way of helping the poorest households. Truss has appeared reluctant to offer further assistance for people to pay their energy bills aside from the tax cuts she has proposed, saying she does not favour “handouts”.

Lewis said: “With the Liz Truss case, tax cuts will not help the millions of the poorest in society who are making the choice between heating and eating. That just will not help them because they don’t pay tax.

“Tax cuts are not going to help the poorest pensioners, it’s not going to help those on universal credit.

“By the time you get to January over 18 months, some people will see their bills go from £800 to £4,200 on the same use. This is a national crisis on the scale that we saw in the pandemic.”

Lewis added that the rising energy price cap, with households now facing bills of £4,200 in January, was pushing the UK towards a “financial emergency that risks lives”.

He added: “I accept the point that Boris Johnson is running a zombie government and can’t do much, but the two candidates – one of them will be our prime minister – they need to get together in the national interest to tell us the bare minimum of what they will do.”

On Tuesday, it was reported that the UK may face blackouts in January. Under the government’s latest “reasonable worst-case scenario”, officials believe the UK could experience blackouts for several days in January if cold weather combines with gas shortages to leave the country short of power.

Greg Jackson, the founder of the energy company Octopus Energy, said he thought households were “safe” from possible blackouts this winter.

He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “I think the reality is that domestic supply is safe and that industry, from time to time, sometimes driven by prices, by the way, voluntarily reduce their energy usage.

“So, we have a terrible price crisis, but I think the UK is more fortunate than many of our European neighbours that we’ve got more resilient supply.”

Source: The Guardian