Rishi Sunak and Liz Truss are still fighting it out to be the next PM (Photo: SUSANNAH IRELAND via Getty Images)
Energy regulator Ofgem has confirmed the price cap will be shooting up to £3,549 annually for the average household this October – but the government seems to be reluctant to take any direct action.
There’s no question that this is a crisis gripping the nation right now. Citizens Advice claims 21% of people won’t be able to afford their bills come October.
And there is only so much consumers can do to cut down on costs.
Industry experts from Money Saving Expert’s Martin Lewis to Ofgem itself, have been calling for immediate action from Downing Street.
Some key messages coming from @Ofgem boss on Today programme.
Surprisingly he's saying "without govt intervention many households will be under household stress." That's quite strong for a regulator.
Ie its out of our hands, its govt's.
— Martin Lewis (@MartinSLewis) August 26, 2022
But where are the ministers in this time of crisis?
There were no ministers available for this morning’s broadcast round, shortly after Ofgem confirmed the price cap was rising to £3,549.
In a statement, a government spokesperson did acknowledge that people “are incredibly worried” about the rises.
They also indicated that direct support will still be able to reach people’s pockets in the coming months as part of the £37 billion cost of living package announced back in May.
This includes a £400 discount on energy bills, a £650 payment for the worst-off households, an extra £300 payment for pensioners, and a one-off £150 disability payment.
However, inflation and energy bills have changed substantially since that was announced. New action is needed.
Chancellor Nadhim Zahawi also spoke to Sky News later in the morning and admitted there is “real anxiety” among the population.
He said the government knows more needs to be done, and is looking at what support they can offer “the most vulnerable”. But, he confusingly added: “We should all look at our energy consumption.”
"Clearly there is real anxiety among the population."
Chancellor Nadhim Zahawi says government is looking at what support they can offer "the most vulnerable" as the energy price cap is set to increase to £3,549.
📺 Sky 501 and YouTube pic.twitter.com/lFPjbRerEg
— Sky News (@SkyNews) August 26, 2022
No further details have been given on what Zahawi might have up his sleeve to help with the crisis.
Tory leadership hopeful Liz Truss has also hinted that she will do something to tackle the cost of living crisis, but her team has indicated she will not reveal anything until she is actually in No.10.
Her opponent, Rishi Sunak, is the former chancellor but trailing Truss in the polls. He told Sky News he would go further than his previous package of support introduced in May, and hand more money over to the most vulnerable in society. He has not explained how or when he would do that though.
The next prime minister will not be in No.10 until September 5. In the meantime, Boris Johnson – current prime minister – is spending most of his time in the grace-and-favour country home, Chequers.
He told Sky News today that “there’s a pipeline of cash coming through over the next few months and through the autumn and the winter”, and that the government will “plainly” announce more money come September.
How are people trying to push government into action?
Writing to their local MP
You can contact your MP by phone, letter or email. As your local representative for parliament, this means they should be able to share your concerns in the Commons.
Parliament is in recess right now but MPs can still respond to concerned constituents.
The Commons will also return on September 5. This is the date the new prime minister will be elected by the Conservative Party members too, meaning your MP will be able to put your queries directly to either Truss or Sunak.
Joining Don’t Pay UK
This is a movement which is demanding a reduction in energy bills to an affordable level, by refusing to pay direct debits from October 1.
The campaign wants at least one million people to pledge not to pay their bills if the energy price cap goes ahead.
However, this could lead to significant repercussions from your energy supplier if you do not pay. Depending on your individual energy supplier, you could be faced with a warrant as companies attempt to disconnect your meter, or they could pass your details onto a debt collection agency, so be aware of the risks if you join this movement.
Enough is Enough
This campaign is accelerating across the country right now. Even US politician Bernie Sanders has voiced his support for it, along with RMT Union leader Mick Lynch and former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn.
With rallies set to take place around the country, the campaigners are calling for a cut to energy bills by returning to the pre-April energy price cap and bringing energy companies into public ownership.
It also wants to increase investment in renewable energies, along with introducing a real pay rise for workers and taxing the rich.
Enough is Enough’s website explains: “We can’t rely on the establishment to solve our problems. It’s up to us in every workplace and every community.”
It now has close to 450,000 supporters.
The head of communications at the Communications Workers Union Chris Webb (which helped set the movement up) told The Guardian: “It is growing at such a rate we have had to update our database infrastructure. There is potential for us to call our own mass demonstrations.”
The next general election will not be for another two years, but in the meantime there could be smaller by-elections across the country if individual MPs are no longer able to serve their constituencies.
Anna Soubry, a former Tory MP who joined Change UK Party in 2019 (and that lost her seat), also called on the public to “remember this when you vote in the next general election”.
Despite her Conservative roots, she noted how the “response from the Conservative Govt is silence” after none of them appeared on the morning media rounds.
Remember this when you vote in the next General Election.
On the day rocketing energy prices frighten millions of people as to how they will survive this winter, the response from the Conservative Govt is silence. No Minister on the mornings media.
And vote them out.
— Anna Soubry (@Anna_Soubry) August 26, 2022
There’s already indications among the polls that voters are moving away from the Conservatives and towards Labour, which has a fully-costed plan to deal with the crisis.
Sustained slumps in the polls can help drive government policy, especially as the Conservatives will want to be elected again in 2024.
Westminster Voting Intention:
LAB: 40% (+7)
CON: 26% (-19)
LDM: 11% (-1)
GRN: 6% (+4)
SNP: 6% (+2)
RFM: 5% (+3)
Via @PeoplePolling, 22 Aug.
Changes w/ GE2019.
— Election Maps UK (@ElectionMapsUK) August 26, 2022
What can Downing Street do?
There are lots of different options when it comes to finding solutions to the current energy crisis, but here’s just a few:
1. Freeze energy price cap – This idea, from Labour, would keep the energy bills at their current level of £1,971. It would be covered partly by expanding the government’s windfall tax on oil and gas giants.
2. Nationalise energy giants – This is when state or government takes control of a private company through its assets and operations, as suggested by former prime minister Gordon Brown earlier this month.
3. Look to renewable energy – Rather than relying on imported gas (from both Russia and elsewhere), the government could look to harness our natural resources through solar panels, wind turbines or tidal power.
This article originally appeared on HuffPost UK and has been updated.