Chancellor Nadhim Zahawi suggests people cut back on energy use but insists help is coming | Politics News
Chancellor Nadhim Zahawi has suggested that people cut back on their energy use – but said “help is coming” from the government to ease the burden of rising household bills.
Speaking to broadcasters, he admitted that the soaring energy price cap will cause “stress and anxiety for many people”, later adding: “The reality is that we should all look at our energy consumption.”
On Friday morning, energy regulator Ofgem announced the price cap for an average household will rise to £3,549 a year in October, £800 more than the forecast figure that was provided to then-chancellor Rishi Sunak in May.
Bills set to soar after price cap announcement – live updates
As calls for the government to act grow, Mr Zahawi said he is “working flat out” to develop more options to support people – but insisted it would be for the next prime minister to decide what support to deliver.
Either Liz Truss or Rishi Sunak will take up the role on 5 September.
“I know the energy price cap announcement this morning will cause stress and anxiety for many people, but help is coming with £400 off energy bills for all, the second instalment of a £650 payment for vulnerable households, and £300 for all pensioners,” the chancellor said.
“While Putin is driving up energy prices in revenge for our support of Ukraine’s brave struggle for freedom, I am working flat out to develop options for further support.
“This will mean the incoming prime minister can hit the ground running and deliver support to those who need it most, as soon as possible.”
Later Mr Zahawi admitted that the support pledged by the government is “not enough” and that ministers have “got to do more”.
“We need to make sure that this isn’t a sticking plaster, that for the long term we continue to help the most vulnerable who have no cushion. And that’s what I’m determined to do,” he said.
Mr Zahawi added that his aim is to make sure vulnerable UK households are “resilient through next year”.
‘Truss and Sunak have no idea’
Sir Keir Starmer accused the government of being “missing in action” and said it is “unforgiveable” that no further intervention has been made by ministers to help households amid the cost of living crisis.
The Labour Party has set out a £29bn emergency plan to stop energy bills rising over the winter, which would be funded in part by an extension of the windfall tax on the bumper profits of oil and gas companies.
“What we’ve got is a fully costed, comprehensive plan for this winter, which will freeze those prices, that is welcome news for so many people worried sick today,” the Labour leader said.
“That is a fully costed plan. We haven’t got that from the government or anybody else.”
Meanwhile, Labour’s shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves told Sky News that the the price cap announcement “will strike fear” into families and pensioners and urged the government to back her party’s proposal to freeze energy bills for the winter.
“We cannot wait any longer to act. This is a national emergency,” she said.
Everything you need to know about the price cap
Even those who’ve done the right thing won’t escape impact of massive rise in energy bills
Liberal Democrat leader Sir Ed Davey said the rise in the price cap is “nothing short of a catastrophe” for millions of households and that freezing prices is “the only option”.
“The only option is for energy prices to be frozen before these rises wreak havoc on our communities,” he said.
“Then we need a proper plan to be put in place to bring bills down next year.
“As millions suffer the Conservatives do nothing.
“No policy from the government, no plan from Liz Truss or Rishi Sunak. They have no idea how much pain these energy prices will cause our country. They are simply unfit to govern.”
What have the Tory leadership candidates said?
During the latest Conservative Party leadership hustings on Thursday, Ms Truss said she will use an emergency budget to “ensure support is on its way” amid soaring energy bills if she becomes prime minister.
Ms Truss has repeatedly said she favours tax cuts over handouts, leading to criticism her plans will benefit higher earners over people on low incomes.
Fellow leadership hopeful Mr Sunak has said he will offer direct support to households struggling to pay their bills, though he is yet to put a figure on how much help he is willing to give.
Speaking to broadcasters on Friday, Mr Sunak said he would “go further” in terms of support if he were to become the next prime minister.
“My priority is to protect the most vulnerable in society, including pensioners, and I want them to have certainty that extra help is coming – that is what I would put in place,” he said.
“Alternative plans, which are doing different things – borrowing tens of billions for permanent, unfunded tax cuts – don’t actually do anything to help those most in need, risk making inflation worse and putting our nation’s finances at risk as well.”
The cap will come into effect for around 24 million households in England, Scotland, and Wales on default energy tariffs on 1 October, and will remain in place until 31 December, when it will be adjusted again.
The 4.5 million pre-payment meter customers, who are often the most vulnerable and already in fuel poverty, will have an even more punishing increase, with their average annual bill set to go up to £3,608.
Sky News has found that a third of households are already struggling to pay their energy bills.