Martin Lewis on energy bill crisis: 'I can't help you anymore - the system is broken'

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·Political Correspondent - Yahoo News UK
·4-min read
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Money Saving Expert's Martin Lewis during a joint press conference with Facebook at the Facebook headquarters in London.
Money-Saving Expert's Martin Lewis said a political intervention is needed to tackle the energy bill crisis. (PA)

Martin Lewis has warned a "political solution" must be found to address the growing energy crisis ahead of what he says could be a bleak winter for those facing a double whammy of soaring bills and cuts to Universal Credit. 

The money-saving expert warned that the situation around energy bills was so serious that there’s "nothing left in the cupboard that I can help you with".

“We’ve got to the point where a money-saving expert cannot help you on energy bills anymore, because there are no tools left in that arsenal," Lewis told Yahoo News UK. 

"And when that happens, that means the system is broken - and we need political help and support... [when] someone like me, who’s been studying this for the past 20 years, says there’s nothing left in the cupboard that I can help you with... that means it has to be a political solution.”

Watch: Labour: Government stumbling from 'crisis to crisis'

Read more: Martin Lewis fears energy bills could soar by 'catastrophic' 40%

Energy bills have soared over recent months, with wholesale gas prices up 250% since January and companies going bust; Avro and Green were the latest to go into administration earlier this week.

The energy crisis is not only affecting the finances of the public either - it is also threatening supply chains and potentially even hospitals.

Gas shortages have been caused by a combination of different factors including low gas reserves in the UK, a lower the usual gas supply from Russia, and higher than expected gas usage in Asia as it emerges from lockdowns.

Read more: Ministers 'considering Universal Credit changes' amid fears of perfect storm in coming weeks

Lewis said the energy crisis was happening at the worst time for those in financial difficulty in the UK.

"The situation that we’re in now with furlough and self-employment support ending, it looks like the Universal Credit uplift [is] ending… inflation rising, and of course the energy bills - then it is a very bleak winter indeed that we are looking at," he said. 

"It is not many people, it is few people, but certainly some people will choose between that what is now becoming a cliche: heating and eating. And that isn’t good in a G7 economy."

His comments come amid plans for a £20 per week cut to Universal Credit, soaring energy costs, inflation, and the end of furlough - which has been described by Labour as a "perfect storm".

The Universal Credit cut alone is set to send up to 800,000 more people into poverty, and is being opposed by several Tory former work and pensions secretaries including its founder - Sir Ian Duncan Smith.

Read more: Universal Credit: 'I can't afford to live without cutting back on food'

Depressed young woman holding paper document, stressed by getting bank debt notification or eviction letter having financial problems. Unhappy female student received entrance exams failure results.
The wholesale price of gas has rocketed 250% since January 2021. (Getty)

While the government say they are maintaining other forms of support for vulnerable energy customers, such as the warm home discount, Lewis says this is not good enough. 

"We need proper support for vulnerable consumers," the consumer champion said. 

"The warm home discount is inadequate, and hasn't been moved for over five years, and the warm home discount is paid by energy companies. 

"And, at the moment, I can't see them wanting to be more generous on the warm home discount, and eligibility is dictated by companies."

He added: "I think that system of support that the government is boasting about is going up £10 next April, which is way too late, and £10 is not enough. 

Money Saving Expert's Martin Lewis speaks to the media after a joint press conference with Facebook at the Facebook headquarters in London. (Photo by Kirsty O'Connor/PA Images via Getty Images)
The Money Saving Expert founder said "the system is broken." (PA)

"I think that needs a radical overhaul, and it needs it within the next week, and applications on some firms have already closed. They need to be reopened so people can get that."

Lewis did have some advice for consumers in crisis that are unable to pay their rising bills. 

"There is a very, very little that anybody can do right now other than sit on the [gas] price cap. The time to act, as I've been pushing hard, is over the last week - every single cheap tariff available has gone," he said. 

"If you're struggling [to pay], speak to your energy company - you can't be disconnected. If you're on prepay, you can ask for emergency credit if you don't have any ability to keep the energy on. 

"Energy companies do have case-by-case help that they can give, apply for the warm home discount."

The Martin Lewis Money Show is on every Thursday on ITV at 8.30pm.

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