Government isolated as organisations line up to back energy tariff reform

Over 140 charities, organisations and MPs have taken joint action to call on the government to support vulnerable households with their energy bills.

In an open letter sent to the Prime Minister [pdf], the groups highlight how the government is yet to announce any winter financial support, despite households facing even higher costs of living and with energy bills still at relative highs.

According to new polling carried out for National Energy Action by YouGov, a third of British adults are expecting to struggle to afford their heating bills this winter if the government doesn’t offer financial help with energy bills.

The government has previously committed to consult on future approaches to consumer protections including a social tariff. This was promised on repeated occasions, as the End Fuel Poverty Coalition has highlighted to the Speaker of the House of Commons.

But with the next winter looming and no consultation launched, the signatories to the letter are urging the government to make good on its commitment to consult on a social tariff.

Adam Scorer, CEO at National Energy Action, said:

“With a third of households expecting to struggle to heat their homes this winter, the cost of energy will remain simply unaffordable for millions.

“We have to face reality. Even without a price rise, which now looks likely in January, the crisis is deepening, and it demands a proper response from government now.

“That means urgent targeted financial support this winter and for government to get moving on its commitments to consult on and deliver a longer-term social tariff for energy.”

Caroline Abrahams CBE, Charity Director of Age UK, said:

“We believe the introduction of a comprehensive, targeted energy social tariff is the best way to deliver support to those who need it. That’s why we are calling on the government to keep their promise and launch a consultation. Older people struggling to heat their homes have waited patiently only to learn that in fact there would be no social tariff consultation before the autumn.

“With estimates showing that high energy prices are here to stay, at least for the next two winters, this targeted support package cannot come soon enough for our older population.”

Louise Rubin, Head of Policy at disability equality charity Scope, said:

“Life costs a lot more for disabled people. When you rely on energy for equipment to help you breathe or get out of bed, cutting back on energy is not an option.

“Last winter pushed disabled people and their families to the brink. Now disabled people who’ve cut back everything they can are facing the terrifying prospect of even higher energy bills.

“We’re hearing from people who have been forced to go without food for days. One person told us they’d been surviving on food donations from a neighbour.

“We need emergency support now, and a social energy tariff to end sky-high bills for disabled people. The government must keep its promise.”

Frazer Scott, CEO of Energy Action Scotland, said that a social tariff is essential for health and wellbeing:

“That we are still having to argue a case for a social tariff as we approach autumn is a disgrace. People need to know that essential and basic levels of heat and power are within reach.

“The UK government must work with regulators and energy suppliers to create a long-term, fair and affordable social tariff. Millions of households are approaching this winter with significant amounts of debt. This means that while gas and electricity prices remain at historically high levels, energy bills are simply unaffordable for those on the lowest incomes, those with essential medical needs, the disabled and older people. It is exacerbated by poor-quality housing, that is cold and damp. This is fast becoming a humanitarian crisis unfolding in plain sight of our politicians and policymakers.”

A Department for Energy Security and Net Zero spokesperson told Press Association that the Government “continues to keep all options under review for those most in need.”

But a spokesperson for the End Fuel Poverty Coalition responded:

“MPs on the Energy Select Committee back reform to energy tariffs, MPs on All Party Parliamentary Groups back reform, charities and campaigners back reform, the public backs reform. Even energy firms support reform.

“The only people left who do not support making our energy system fairer are Rishi Sunak and his Cabinet. They need to wake up to the strength of feeling on this issue and take action now to keep people warm this winter – and every winter.”

Prime Minister admits energy bills are causing businesses to fold

Rishi Sunak admitted on LBC radio that businesses are being forced to shut down because of high energy bills, but campaigners say government failings are leading to persistently high costs.

The UK’s high dependency on gas for heating and generating electricity has meant that the UK has some of the highest energy costs in Europe. Government support for businesses and households helped reduce bills last winter, but support for both has been reduced significantly, with funding for businesses slashed from £18bn for a six month scheme to £5.5bn for the 12 months to March 2024. 

Campaigners from Warm this Winter, which is urging the government to provide more support for energy bills and a coherent plan to move the UK away from volatile fossil fuels through a national rollout of home insulation and affordable renewables, point to bumper-profit making energy firms operating in a system designed by ministers. Despite falling wholesale prices, energy bills this winter are expected to still be nearly twice what they were in 2021.

A spokesperson for the End Fuel Poverty Coalition said:

“Finally the PM has woken up to the fact that energy bills are causing households to struggle and businesses to close – including those in his own constituency.

“But energy firms are allowed to make huge profits from our misery because of his own Government’s refusal to fix Britain’s broken energy system.

“It’s not a question of either Government policies or energy bills wrecking the country, they are one and the same thing! The PM should be standing up for small businesses and households who are facing mounting energy debts, even before winter starts.”

The government’s recent announcement of 100 new oil and gas drilling licences has come under heavy criticism, in part because it will do nothing to lower UK energy bills. The regulator issuing these licences says it will only make a difference to gas production ‘around the edges’, and any increase in UK production will take years to come online and even then will be sold at market rate either to the UK or overseas.

Tessa Khan, executive director of Uplift, added:

“Rishi Sunak is blaming energy bills for businesses in the UK going under, yet his government is doing nothing to bring them down.

“His plan to increase North Sea oil and gas production will do precisely nothing to cut UK energy bills. All it will do is increase the already obscene profits of huge, international oil and gas companies. Whatever they manage to take out of the North Sea, and it won’t happen for years, they will sell to the highest bidder, whether that’s overseas or here in the UK. The only way to lower bills permanently is by helping people save energy and a massive increase in cheaper, homegrown renewable energy.

“The Prime Minister seems to think that unaffordable energy bills are a laughing matter that can be batted away. Millions of households and businesses are struggling today with high energy costs and this winter will be even worse because, while bills are dropping slightly, prices are still nearly double what they were, energy debt levels are soaring and the government has all but withdrawn its help.

“People will rightly ask what has the government actually been doing for the past year and half to fix the UK’s broken energy system?”

Public demand more government action on energy crisis

The overwhelming majority of the population believe the Government should do more to help people through the energy crisis, according to new polling by Omnisis on behalf of the End Fuel Poverty Coalition.

Over 60 charities, co-ordinated by the Warm This Winter campaign, have joined forces to write to the new Prime Minister [pdf] demanding more financial and non-financial support for the 7m UK households currently in fuel poverty.

The letter goes on to call for the upweighting of benefits and urgent clarification of energy bills support available from April 2023, a massive programme of energy efficiency measures and the speeding up of moves to cheaper renewable energy.

The campaigners are supported by the new research which shows 76% of the population think the Government is not doing enough to support vulnerable households this winter.

Even taking into account the Energy Price Guarantee and the Energy Bills Support Scheme pledged by the Government, 58% of the population believe they will struggle to pay their bills this winter.

The research shows that people in the South West (68%), Wales (64%), the East Midlands and the North East (both 63%) are the areas where the most people are fighting to make ends meet.

And the situation will get worse. Over 8 in 10 (83%) are very or quite worried about the prospect of bills going up further in April 2023 when the current Government support programmes run out.

Joe Cole, Chief Executive of Advice for Renters, is one of the signatories of the letter and commented:

One of our clients who suffers from PTSD was pushed close to suicide when he couldn’t top up his pre-payment meter.

Thankfully, help was on hand and he has now been put back in credit, but he remains traumatised and his experience is proof of just how damaging life in fuel poverty can be on mental and physical health.

Tessa Khan, director of Uplift, said:

While our politicians have spent months fighting among themselves, the public has been watching this crisis bearing down on us.

It now demands urgent government action, which means more support for those who need it this winter, and the wholesale replacement of Truss’ implausible and wrong-headed plans for taxpayer-subsidised gas production with a government-backed programme to insulate homes and an acceleration of cheaper renewables.

Pragmatism not ideology must be what drives this government’s decisions.

Gavin Smart, CEO Chartered Institute of Housing, commented:

Renters are being hit particularly hard by the cost of living crisis. Social landlords are doing what they can to support residents, but too often they are still unable to afford to heat their homes. We urgently need the government to commit to uprating benefits with inflation and guaranteeing energy bills support beyond April, alongside a national insulation programme, to reduce unaffordable bills in both the short and long term.

Sarah Woolnough, CEO of Asthma + Lung UK, said:

Untenable cost of living hikes are forcing people with lung conditions to make impossible choices about their health, with people already reporting a sharp decline in their lung health.

Lives are at risk if the government doesn’t step in to help people with lung conditions, to provide more support for people on low incomes so they can afford to keep their homes warm this winter.

Richard Quallington, Executive Director of Action with Communities in Rural England (ACRE) said:

It’s not just deprived urban areas where people will be struggling to heat their homes this winter. Many rural parts of the country are also seeing large numbers of people running into difficulties, particularly those living in older homes that are not connected to mains gas.

Rachel Kirby-Rider, Chief Executive of Young Lives vs Cancer, said:

Young Lives vs Cancer have been calling on the government for years to tackle the huge costs experienced by children and young people with cancer and their families. They are disproportionately affected by the cost of living crisis, and were already experiencing unmanageable costs before bills started to rise.

When you care for a child or young person with cancer, you don’t have a choice whether to keep the heating on to keep them well. We urgently need an energy and cost of living plan that protects the poorest and most vulnerable – including children and young people with cancer.


Omnisis surveyed 1,382 people on 21 October 2022. Results were weighted to be reflective of the GB population. Omnisis is a member of the British Polling Council. Full results can be downloaded from the following link: