Energy bills: NHS chief warns of 'more deaths' due to the cold
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While the Tory leadership contenders jostle for power, millions of households in the UK face the looming threat of fuel poverty this winter. Britain is gripped by a major fossil fuel energy crisis, brought about by the skyrocketing costs of wholesale gas as Russia invades Ukraine. On Friday, energy regulator Ofgem will unveil the price cap for household bills beginning in October, with many experts predicting the figure to be somewhere around £3,500.
In light of this crippling crisis, Bill Bullen, the CEO of Utilita Energy, which supplies electricity and gas, has urged the Government to take action.
In a letter to Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng, he noted that the Energy Bill Support Scheme (EBSS), which will give families £400 this winter, is not enough.
He argued that with this approach, the UK would “constantly be chasing this problem”, offering further relief packages as bills continue to increase over the next year.
He said: “It also does nothing to stop energy prices fuelling inflation, further exacerbating the cost of living – in particular for low-income households for whom the effective rate of inflation, based on their basket of expenditure, is already very much higher than the published rate.
“We have to get ahead of this problem, and the way to do that is to freeze the energy price cap at the current level.
“This will stop energy prices fuelling inflation. This will take away the fear of being able to heat a home.”
He argued that freezing the price cap would not “change the quantum of the money” that the Government would need to spend.
Rather, instead of dealing with 30 million homes, the Government would only need to compensate energy suppliers, which would lower administrative costs and “be subject to far lower risk of fraud or error.”
Mr Bullen also called on the Tory leadership contenders to end the race within the next few days, so that the next Prime Minister can begin taking swift action to tackle the crisis.
He said: “It is simply not acceptable for the conservative party to indulge itself any longer whilst leaving the country with a leadership vacuum at this critical time.”
While freezing the price cap would help millions of families on the verge of fuel poverty, Mr Bullen warned that it will not be enough to help families who are already in a state of fuel poverty as a result of the price cap increase to £1,971 in April.
He said: “As you know Utilita deals with a disproportionately large number of low-income households and since the price rise in October 2021 we have seen an increase in incidents of customers being unable to afford their energy costs.
“Clearly the full impact of the 54 percent increase in April 2022 has not yet been felt because we have been going through the summer period when consumption is much lower. That will change as we go into autumn.
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A price cap freeze will at least contain the additional help needed to £100s not £1,000s, and single-digit millions of homes rather than tens of millions of homes.
“We already have mechanisms in place that could be expanded to cope with that.”
He also urged Mr Kwarteng to extend the price cap fees to businesses, arguing that without doing so, inflation would continue to rise and prices for everything are driven up energy costs and “high number of business failures”.
He said: “There is no easy way to assess the level of compensation required to make this happen, but it would seem to me that the only equitable way would be to ensure that wholesale energy is made available to business consumers at a price equivalent to that implied by the frozen price cap.
“We are out of time, and I urge you to act swiftly and boldly, and to demand that your colleagues in Government support you in this approach.”
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