Kerry’s Bristol Post MP column, Friday 2nd September 2022

New PM must act on energy bills

When the new Prime Minister is announced on Monday, they have a chance to do what should have been done months ago and promise immediate financial support to the people of this country by freezing energy bills.

The Conservative leadership contest has left the country in limbo, with the Prime Minister seemingly on a permanent holiday and a caretaker Chancellor who’s been missing in action during this cost-of-living crisis. It’s been suggested that two-thirds of all households may be in fuel poverty by January because of inflation and the energy crisis. We’re sleepwalking toward disaster, but by strengthening the windfall tax on the oil and gas giants the Government can shift the financial burden away from ordinary people. This forms the basis of Labour’s Energy Plan.

Ofgem has just announced that the energy price cap for the average default tariff will rise to £3,549 on October 1st, 80% up from its current level. Forecasters fear this may increase to over £5,300 by January. I know from speaking to local charities, who ae already seeing a huge increase in helpline calls, that many people are saying they simply won’t be able to pay. By maintaining the £1,917 price cap we can ensure nobody pays a penny more, with total savings across Bristol of £193 million.

Although the cap won’t come into effect until October, it’s important that people know now what support will be in place, to save them further anxiety. Martin Lewis, the Money Saving Expert, has spoken of “the mental health catastrophe this is causing by not having an answer or firm plans in place on the day this price cap is announced.”

It’s important too not to forget the impact on small businesses. Pubs have warned of 300% energy increases. We may well find when we head to the local this winter to cheer on the Three Lions in Qatar or meet friends for a Christmas meal, that yet another community institution has been lost.

This comes just a week after it was revealed that home insulation installations have more than halved this year, down from 261,315 to 126,131. Energy efficient homes guarantee security and affordability. The Government should be drastically scaling up energy efficiency in this country but it’s been dragging its feet, allowing millions of homes to go cold and premium-priced heat to escape through roofs, windows, and walls.

UK gas power now costs a staggering nine times more than new renewables. Labour’s plan for a greener, cleaner energy sector involves doubling onshore and offshore wind capacity, committing to new solar, tidal and hydrogen, as well as insulating 19 million homes by 2030 and creating good green jobs in the process.

We want to work with the Government on this. The cost-of-living crisis goes beyond party politics. We’re talking about millions of pensioners going cold in their homes, and children having to skip meals. The next Prime Minister must freeze energy bills so that the oil and gas giants pick up the tab, rather than the people of Bristol.

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