Jarrow MP Kate Osborne calls for nationalisation of energy firms as bills are set to soar
A South Tyneside MP has called for nationalisation of energy firms as families and businesses face soaring bills.
And South Tyneside Council is considering using its own buildings to create ‘warm spaces’ across the borough.
Regulator Ofgem confirmed today that the cap on prices would rise by 80.06% from October 1, sending the average household’s yearly bill from £1,971 to £3,549 from October. The cap for customers with pre-payment meters will rise by nearly 79% to £3,608.
Jarrow MP Kate Osborne said predictions that over half of the population would be in fuel poverty this winter were ‘hugely worrying’.
"With the growing burden of the cost-of-living crisis and inflation at a 40 year high, it will no longer be a choice between heating or eating – people won't be able to do either,” she said.
“We cannot continue to let private companies make obscene amounts of profits from our essential services whilst people can't afford to heat their homes.
“We must freeze bills, not people and we must nationalise our essential services.”
Her South Shields colleague Emma Lewell-Buck said the Government was doing nothing to help: “This will push those already struggling into destitution and tip many more into poverty. People are scared, worried and rightly angry,” she said.
"These companies have billions in the coffers and the Government's silence tells you everything you need to know about whose side they are on.”
Anna Turley, chair of the North East Child Poverty Commission, said low income families were already struggling as inflation climbed: ““Two in five children across our region are already living in poverty, and families on the lowest incomes are struggling to keep their heads above water now with absolutely nothing left to cut back on.
“On today’s announcement, the Government’s current cost of living support will leave low income families £1,000 short – and that’s on energy bills alone, never mind the soaring costs of other essentials such as food.
“We need confirmation there will be at least a doubling of the support currently on the table, if we are to avoid the unthinkable for families and children across the North East this autumn and winter.
"And we need this reassurance now, as this situation is causing unbearable stress and anxiety for so many.’
Rhiannon Bearne, Director of Policy and Representation at the North East of England Chamber of Commerce, said small businesses were desperately worried about spiralling costs: “Our most recent survey of businesses told us that energy concerns are second only to inflation in members’ minds right now.
"Yesterday we supported the British Chamber of Commerce’s new five point plan to tackle the cost-of-doing business crisis. This includes a temporary cut in VAT to 5% to reduce energy costs and Emergency Energy Grants for SMEs.
"These calls are practical and proportional to the scale of challenges facing business and consumers right now.”
A South Tyneside Borough Council spokesperson said the authority was looking at a number of ways to help families and support community groups and other organisations that might be in jeopardy because of rising fuel bills: "We recognise that soaring energy prices are a real concern for our residents at the moment.
"Following an in-depth investigation into poverty by the People Select Committee, a Poverty Group has been established to make sure the Council is doing all it can do to support those living in difficult circumstances while helping people avoid falling into poverty in the first place.
"The council has already played a key role in helping 52,000 households receive assistance through the Government's Council Tax Energy Rebate Scheme and we stand ready to support any further funding that may be forthcoming from central government to our residents be that through distribution or signposting.”
The group was examining the possibility of creating ‘warm spaces’ across the borough for those struggling to heat their homes: "One of the things the council’s poverty group is looking at and talking to partners about is warm spaces.
"Inspire South Tyneside (the umbrella group for the voluntary sector) is reaching out to community organisations to ask if they could offer warm spaces and the council is exploring the potential for some council buildings to be utilised.
"Inspire is also considering how to support organisations offering such spaces through small grants and how to support voluntary and community groups which may struggle to pay their energy bills."
Chancellor Nadhim Zahawi said the increase in the energy price cap would cause “stress and anxiety” for people, but that the Government was working to develop more options to support households.
“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,” he 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.”
The borough council's Welfare Support Service is a free, impartial and confidential service that offers debt, benefit and money advice. They can be contacted on 424 6040 or via email at: [email protected]
The council website also contains dedicated cost of living web pages so that people can easily find details of government support and organisations which can provide help www.southtyneside.gov.uk/costofliving