Calls grow to freeze energy bills after price hike confirmed
Parties from across the political spectrum have urged the UK Government to scrap the planned increase to the energy price cap in October.
Typical energy bills are set to go up to £3,549 per year, an announcement from Ofgem confirmed on Friday morning.
Scottish Government ministers have labelled the increase as “simply unaffordable”.
Both Labour and the Lib Dems have also backed a freeze.
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said: “This rise must be cancelled, with the UK [government] and energy companies then agreeing a package to fund the cost of a freeze over a longer period, coupled with fundamental reform of the energy market.”
The new cap is an approximate 80 per rise on current bills.
But it is expected to increase again in January, following sustained high prices of wholesale gas caused by continued tension between Russia and the west.
Previously predictions put January’s expected increase at £4,200 but fresh projections from research firm Cornwall Insights this morning warned it could be in excess of £5,300.
Another increase is also likely in April.
Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar warned the October change will plunge families into fuel poverty and both Scotland’s governments must act.
“While energy giants are posting record profits, people are facing soaring bills. That’s why we need a windfall tax to put money in the pockets of consumers. Across the UK we need an energy price freeze now to help millions of households. And here in Scotland we need an emergency cost of living act to freeze rents, cut the cost of commuting and support businesses,” he said.
Scottish Lib Dem leader Alex Cole-Hamilton added: “The only option is for energy prices to be frozen before these rises wreak havoc on our communities and for the Scottish Government to kickstart a national insulation programme before the cold of winter arrives.”
Anti-poverty campaigners have issued stark warnings of what the reality of rising bills will mean for struggling families.
The Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) in Scotland said the announcement will “terrify” many.
Director John Dickie said: “The next Prime Minister will be on a collision course with reality unless they increase support to reflect the scale of need and recognise the extra costs faced by families. But every level of government needs to pull out all the stops to prevent children suffering the consequence of the energy price crisis.
“Here in Scotland one immediate step would be to double the remaining Scottish child payment bridging payments so that hard up families with school aged children get equivalent support to those already benefitting from the £20 a week Scottish child payment (SCP).”
Save the Children urged the UK Government to double its cost of living support package and increase the child element of Universal Credit.
The charity’s head of Scotland, Claire Telfer, added: “The Scottish Government should set out a cost of living package, starting with doubling the bridging payments for families in receipt of free school meals from £130 to £260 – this would benefit around 150, 000 families.
“Other measures the could include doubling the Child Winter Heating Assistance, as well as making a further one-off payment to all recipient of the SCP of £260 in early 2023 while also boosting the value and responsiveness of the Scottish Welfare Fund.”
The Scottish Greens, who are in government alongside the SNP, said the price rise was a result of both “market failure” and a “broken regulatory system”.
The party’s environment spokesperson Mark Ruskell said: “There are vital steps that can be taken to mitigate the impact, but the biggest ones can only be done from Downing Street, whether it is nationalising the big five energy companies, reversing this terrible rise, raising minimum wage to a liveable level or reversing the cruel cuts to Universal Credit. There must also be a fundamental review of Ofgem and the regulatory system that has allowed this to happen.”