Consumer champion Martin Lewis has warned that soaring energy bills are turning into a “national crisis” on the scale of the Covid-19 pandemic and will put lives at risk.
The founder of MoneySavingExpert called on the two Conservative leadership candidates to set out how they will tackle the energy crisis as households face a “cataclysmic” rise in energy bills.
That is a cataclysmic rise for households; millions of households will simply not be able to afford it
“For every £100 direct debit you currently pay, in October you will be paying £181, and in January you will be paying £215, and that’s on top of the rises we had in April,” he said.
“That is a cataclysmic rise for households; millions of households will simply not be able to afford it.”
He said a typical bill will be £4,266 a year from January – 45% of the full new state pension and a bigger proportion of the old state pension.
Mr Lewis added: “What we’re facing here is a financial emergency that risks lives.
“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.
“If they can’t agree… what we need to hear now, because the mental health damage for millions of people who are panicked about this is manifest, is we need to hear accurate plans.”
A survey released on Wednesday by Uswitch suggested households are already getting in mounting debt with energy suppliers, even before the energy price cap is lifted.
It estimates that six million homes across the UK collectively owe around £1.3 billion to energy firms – three times higher than a year ago.
Derek Lickorish, chairman of energy firm Utilita and former head of the Committee on Fuel Poverty, has called for “unity of purpose” between Boris Johnson and the two prime ministerial candidates to tackle the threat to the poorest people posed by rising energy costs.
— Uswitch (@UswitchUK) August 10, 2022
Speaking to BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, he said: “We have to do something very profound, we have to do it quickly because all the time we’re sitting here the clock is ticking and the price of gas keeps on increasing.”
He called for a social tariff which would need to offer around £800 to £1,000 of help to those struggling the most.
But Greg Jackson, founder of supplier Octopus Energy, looked to calm nerves over fears of blackouts this winter.
He told the 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.”