OPINION - Help on energy bills is coming – it won’t be enough

·3-min read
 (West End Final)
(West End Final)

It’s been a gorgeous summer’s day in London. Plentiful sunshine, highs of 26C and dusk still a heady 9.34pm. Given all that (and the judgement on you know what), do we really need to talk about energy bills?

Today, Kwasi Kwarteng set out details of the Energy Bills Support Scheme, better known to you and me as the £400 discount on bills. The Business Secretary announced that the payments will be made to consumers in six monthly instalments, beginning in October.

Households with an electricity meter who pay for their energy by direct debit will automatically receive a monthly deduction on their bills over the six-month period. Customers on prepayment metres will receive Energy Bill discount vouchers each month which can be redeemed at their normal top-up location.

These payments are in addition to the £150 council tax rebate for those living in property bands A-D and the £650 in targeted relief to the poorest households.

Yet the real and urgent problem facing the next leader of the Conservative Party is that it will become clear on day one that all this support will not be enough.

Cornwall Insight, an energy research specialist, predicts that October’s price cap rise could see the average dual fuel bill hit more than £3,400. Let’s get this straight:

Back in April, the price cap rose an extraordinary £693 to £1971. Then in May, Ofgem, the energy regulator, predicted it would rise again in the autumn to £2,800. Now, we can expect that to be £3,400.

It gets worse. As a result of Russia’s decision to slash the flow of gas to Europe to a fifth of the Nord Stream 1 pipeline’s usual capacity, prices are set to climb even further.

BFY Group, a utilities consultancy, projects the cap could rise by *another* £500 between October and January 2023, taking the average bill to not much less than £4000 a year. For context, the price cap in October 2020 was a little over £1,000.

All this is to say that the next prime minister, far from spending the proceeds of growth on tax cuts, will have little choice but to act immediately to prevent people from freezing over the winter.

If you are struggling to pay your energy bill, help is available. You can contact the Citizen’s Advice Bureau, the National Debtline and Martin Lewis’s Money Saving Expert. It is also worth calling your supplier directly to hear about the range of options open to you.

In the comment pages, I try out my latest thesis: from fixing climate change to getting through on the phone to a customer service representative – if you don’t make it happen, it won’t get done. Plus a short on the superhero we wish we didn’t need, Martin Lewis.

While Katie Rice says she’ll only cheer Sebastian Stan’s new role when disabled actors get the same chances.

And finally, let’s go Lionesses! Speaking of which, this video from the US Embassy in London on the subject is delightful, and how I enjoy my soft power served.

Have a lovely weekend.

Correction: I let out an audible obscenity on the Overground when I realised yesterday I’d written that Sam Tarry represented the Ilford North constituency. He is MP for Ilford South. Apologies for the error (and to anyone of a sensitive disposition on the East London line circa 5.30pm).

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