Consumer champion Martin Lewis has hit out at the “zombie government” failing to get a grasp on the impact of soaring energy bills this winter – warning the latest forecasts are “catastrophic”.
The Money Saving Expert has called for Boris Johnson, Rishi Sunak and Liz Truss to thrash out an urgent package of support, and not wait until the conclusion of the Tory leadership contest to decide on help for households who will face the energy price cap rising to £3,500 or more.
He dismissed the extra help promised by Sunak and Truss during their leadership bids as “trivial” in the face of bills which are set to be £2,300 a year higher than they were last October.
Lewis told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme the data that informs the price cap suggests it will increase 77% on top of the 52% rise in April, taking the typical bill to £3,500 a year.
“Others say it will be higher,” he warned. “We are expecting it to rise again in January.”
Lewis said the choice facing the government is “you either have to cut prices for people or you have to put more money in their pockets, especially at the poorest level”.
But he added: “The problem is we have this zombie government at the moment that can’t make any big decisions.”
Major policy decisions have been postponed until the new prime minister takes office, with the Tory leadership contest scheduled to conclude on September 5.
But Nadine Dorries, the culture secretary, has played down the impact of the huge rises.
Also appearing on Today, when it was put to her that bills would be going up by £2,300 this autumn, Dorries replied: “Some, some people’s bills may increase by that amount.”
The wholesale price data that inform the price cap suggest it will increase 77% on top of the 52% rise in April, taking the typical bill to £3,500 a year.
Global energy prices have soared, fuelled by increased demand as Covid-19 lockdowns receded and with supplies constrained by the war in Ukraine.
Lewis later told ITV News: “The impact of it is frankly catastrophic and intervention is needed, and needed now.”
Urging the government to act now, he added: “What we need is a willingness to take action and to grasp this, to make sure there are millions of people in this country who don’t face the choice between starvation and freezing this winter.
“It’s looking like that is a realistic choice if nothing is done for many.”
Johnson acknowledged the pressures people face with the rising cost of living, but said “periods of difficulty” are “inevitable”.
In a speech in Birmingham, Johnson said: “I know that the pressures people are facing on their cost of living and the global inflation problems that we’re seeing, the energy squeeze, the cost of gas, every country around the world is feeling it.
“But my argument to you would be that sometimes you’ve got to go through periods of difficulty and you’ve got to remember that they are just inevitable.”