Speculation continues over new measures to tackle fuel poverty

Senior figures in the Conservative Party came under increasing scrutiny this week as consistent media headlines accused them of failing to act.

After last week’s headlines about the Ofgem price cap changes, Cornwall Insight provided the latest estimates on the likely price cap.

This revealed that the average energy bill in October will rise to £3,542 (£3,182 including the Government’s planned household support” and then to £4,266 from January.

The End Fuel Poverty Coalition predicts that this will result in 9.2m households being in fuel poverty in October, with the number growing to 10.5m in early 2023.

As the Coalition told CNN:

Only a full programme of emergency financial support, a rapid expansion of energy efficiency programmes and a commitment to bringing more cheap renewable energy on stream will help people stay warm this winter and into the future.

During the week, the leadership contenders felt the pressure as fuel poverty campaigners with Warm This Winter targeted the Darlington hustings to press home the message that more needed to be done.

Rishi Sunak responded with plans for more support for households, but also an expansion in the country’s reliance on fossil fuels.

Meanwhile Liz Truss continued to avoid directly promising support. This lead to her local paper, the Eastern Daily Press to run a large feature highlighting the devastating impact her policies will have on her own constituency.

After accusations that he was presiding over a Zombie Government, the acting Prime Minister also attended a meeting with energy firms. Afterwards, the Treasury admitted to the Guardian that support would not be enough.

As the week drew to a close, figures showing a slight decline in GDP also posed a challenge to leaders, with Jennifer Wallace from Carnegie UK (which proposes a wellbeing approach to measuring a nation‘s success) commenting:

These figures take into account a dramatic increase in the cost of living, in part due to the rising costs of home energy bills.

While this has helped prop up the GDP figures somewhat, it is hugely damaging for the UK’s collective wellbeing due to rising anxiety for people who are worried about being unable to heat their homes this winter.

As an article in the Sunday Times revealed that people will not be able to afford vital care, the Government is also now rumoured to be planning for additional help. However, the Coalition commented:

The toll on the mental health of people struggling to pay their energy bills or plan ahead should not be under-estimated.

We are already seeing disabled people unable to charge their medical equipment because they can’t afford to use electricity.

If the Government is unwilling to help everyone this winter, it should at least support the most vulnerable.

The Lib Dems and Labour revealed some of their suggestions for helping offset the energy bills rise.

Labour has pledged to act on the unfair pre-payment meter tariffs in the first of a proposed series of announcements, while the Lib Dems called for universal support to be extended to cancel out the October price rise.