Gordon Brown has called for the government to drop the energy price cap and temporarily renationalise energy companies which are not able to offer customers lower energy bills.
Writing in The Guardian, the former Labour prime minister compared the current cost of living crisis and soaring energy costs to the 2008 banking disaster.
In a broadside at Boris Johnson – who has been enjoying a trip to Slovenia in recent days – Mr Brown said that in a crisis leaders “don’t take holidays, and don’t politely hang fire”.
He said that “several urgently needed decisions” must be taken and these could include suspending or reforming the energy price cap, a tax on bonuses in the City and a windfall tax on gas and oil companies.
Mr Brown said that the government should work with companies to keep energy prices down, after it was revealed this week that energy bills could surge to £4,266 a year in January.
He told the newspaper: “And if the companies cannot meet these new requirements, we should consider all the options we used with the banks in 2009: guaranteed loans, equity financing and, if this fails, as a last resort, operate their essential services from the public sector until the crisis is over.”
It comes as almost 50,000 people have signed a petition backing Mr Brown‘s call for an emergency budget to tackle the cost of living crisis.
Campaign group 38 Degrees said that within 24 hours of going live, tens of thousands of people from across the UK had signed.
The petition says: “The government raised Universal Credit during the pandemic – providing a lifeline to millions – and with enough pressure, they could do it again.”
The former prime minister has been joined by metro mayors, anti-poverty groups, and faith leaders from across the country in demanding urgent government action on Universal Credit and support for families.
Mr Brown said: “People are being asked to bear an unbearable burden of unpayable bills at a time when so many are under pressure.”
Ellie Gellard, strategic director at 38 Degrees, said: “The stories we’re hearing from people all over the country could come straight out of a Charles Dickens novel: kids going hungry, mums who are sick yet working three jobs to make ends meet, families facing freezing in their own homes.
“Now, with news that energy bills could ramp up to £4,000 next year, the panic felt by millions is only going to get worse.
“All while our government is out of office on their summer holidays and the candidates vying to be our next PM are silent. For families on the edge, that silence is deafening.
“In a matter of hours, tens of thousands of members of the British public have backed Gordon Brown’s calls for an emergency budget – and a plan to bring down crippling bills and support families, immediately.”
Additional reporting by PA