Martin and MSE among organisations calling for energy social tariff as millions expected to struggle with bills this winter
An energy social tariff must be introduced urgently to prevent millions of households from falling into fuel poverty this winter. In a new open letter published today – and backed by MoneySavingExpert.com (MSE) and its founder Martin Lewis – a coalition of 140 charities, consumer groups and MPs are calling on the Government to fulfil its repeated pledges to protect vulnerable energy customers.
Despite first promising to consult on a social tariff nearly a year ago in its November 2022 Autumn Statement, the Government has yet to follow through on this commitment.
In July this year, Martin grilled then-Energy Secretary Grant Shapps about the lack of progress, and Mr Shapps reiterated that the Government was still "working on" it. Now, MSE and other consumer groups have written to the Prime Minister and current Energy Secretary urging them to act – read the full letter below.
While the Energy Price Cap is set to fall this Sunday (1 October), the lack of Government support means that the average bill is still set to be 13% higher than last winter, which had the highest energy costs in living memory. To find out what you'll pay, use our Energy Price Cap calculator.
Martin Lewis: ‘The Government needs to pull its bloody finger out’
Martin Lewis, founder of MoneySavingExpert.com, said: "A typical house now pays a once unthinkable, still unaffordable, £2,000 a year for energy – worse, this winter people won’t get the £400 support they did last. The energy market is broken – the limited competition there is hardly impacts what people pay.
"Even when there was competition, it failed many elderly or vulnerable people unable to take advantage of deals.
"That's why I’ve long supported a social tariff. It’s why I was excited when the Government said it’d bring one in. Now I’m despairing at the deafening silence of inaction. This isn’t trivial, it’s a core wellbeing issue for millions. The Government needs to pull its bloody finger out."
Below is a copy of the letter sent to the Prime Minister and the Energy Secretary. If you’re struggling to pay for energy, see our step-by-step Energy bill help guide.
The Rt Hon Rishi Sunak MP
10 Downing Street
CC: the Rt Hon Claire Coutinho MP
29 September 2023
Dear Prime Minister,
We are writing as a group of consumer organisations and charities to ask for urgent action to introduce a social tariff for energy – something that is desperately needed by millions of struggling households in the UK.
With winter fast approaching, short-term, targeted support is needed to protect the most vulnerable households in and on the edge of fuel poverty. These are people whose bills have become so unaffordable that they are having to make the desperate choice nobody should have to make – between heating and eating. But, as your government has itself acknowledged, we also need to work towards a longer term solution. We are therefore calling on the government to publish the crucial consultation it committed to a year ago on future protection for energy consumers.
Last year’s Autumn Statement promised to “develop a new approach to consumer protection in energy markets, which will apply from April 2024 onwards,” and said that the government “will work with consumer groups and industry to consider the best approach, including options such as social tariffs...” In April, the Department for Energy Security and Net Zero reiterated that commitment, setting out an intention to consult in summer 2023 on the same. Despite these assertions, we are yet to see this consultation materialise.
The energy crisis is not over, and while the wholesale price of gas is falling, energy bills remain sky-high. Today, some 6.6 million households find themselves in fuel poverty after a winter that pushed many into making painful choices and created record amounts of debt. Currently £2.25bn is owed by UK households who are behind on their energy bills, up more than 70% over the past three years.
In the absence of the Energy Bills Support Scheme this winter, households will be facing bills 13% higher than the last, and energy costs are still substantially higher than they were before the crisis started. Forecasts show no sign of relief either – we can expect millions of people in low-income and vulnerable households to suffer many more years living in a cold home, rationing energy, and struggling to cook a hot meal. As families fall behind on bills, they will be faced with the double whammy of facing high costs and trying to drag their way out of energy debt.
This is a long-term problem that requires a sustainable safety net for these people. Anything else will be a costly sticking-plaster. There’s now a significant risk that no new protections will be in place by the time they are desperately needed.
One of the most effective ways the government can address this enduring challenge is through the introduction of comprehensive targeted energy support, sometimes referred to as a social tariff. This would provide a deeper price protection for all households struggling with their energy bills.
This support would have numerous additional benefits for the country and would help meet your five key pledges. A social tariff would help to reduce inflation by bringing down the cost of energy bills. The money saved by households would likely find its way into local economic growth. It would also help slash waiting lists by reducing cold-related illnesses brought on by living in an underheated home.
We now collectively ask you to bring forward the consultation the government promised a year ago and help prevent millions more falling into fuel poverty in this country.
National Energy Action, Age UK, Citizens Advice, Energy Action Scotland, Fair By Design, MoneySavingExpert, and Scope
- ACE (Action in Caerau and Ely)
- ACRE (Action with Communities in Rural England)
- Act on Energy
- Action Renewables
- Advice For Renters
- Age NI
- Angus MacNeil MP (chair, Energy Security and Net Zero Committee)
- Asthma+Lung UK
- Awel Amen Tawe
- Belfast City Council
- Believe Housing
- Ben Lake MP (chair, Fuel Poverty and Energy Efficiency All-Party Parliamentary Group)
- Brighton and Hove Energy Services Co-operative
- Bro Myrddin Housing Association
- Bromley by Bow Centre
- Bryson Energy
- Building Communities Trust
- Cardiff Quakers
- Care & Repair Cymru
- Centre for Sustainable Energy
- Centre for Sustainable Technologies
- Chartered Institute of Housing
- Christians Against Poverty
- Citizens Advice Canterbury
- Citizens Advice Gwynedd / Cyngor ar Bopeth Gwynedd
- Citizens Advice Rhondda Cynon Taf / Cyngor ar Bopeth Rhondda Cynon Taf
- Citizens Advice Scotland
- Citizens Advice South Lincolnshire
- Citizens Advice Swansea Neath Port Talbot / Cyngor ar Bopeth Abertawe Castell-nedd Port Talbot
- City of Doncaster Council
- Clean Slate
- Climate and Community
- Climate Cymru
- Climate Shop
- Clynfyw Care Farm
- Coastline Housing
- Community Housing Cymru
- Community Law Service
- Connecting Communities in Berkshire
- Croydon Community Energy
- Cumbria Action for Sustainability
- Datblygiadau Egni Gwledig
- Debt Justice
- Dolmens Climate Action Network
- EastSide Partnership
- Egni Cooperative
- End Fuel Poverty Coalition
- Exeter Community Energy
- Faith in Families
- Family Fund
- Ffynnone Community Resilience
- Fife Council
- Food Aid Network
- Glen Housing Association
- Grampian Housing Association
- Green Squirrel
- Greenans Products
- Greener Futures
- Harvey Girls
- Hillcrest Homes
- Hjaltland Housing Association
- Home-Start Down District
- Independent Age
- International Longevity Centre
- Jigsaw Homes
- Leeds City Council
- Leonard Cheshire
- Lochaber Housing Association Limited
- Macmillan Cancer Support
- Marie Curie
- Melin Homes
- Merthyr Tydfil Housing Association
- Mid Devon District Council
- Money Advice Scotland
- Money Matters Money Advice Centre
- Motor Neurone Disease Association
- Muirneag Consulting
- National Debtline
- National Federation of ALMOs
- Newport City Homes
- Newydd Housing Association
- North Belfast Senior Citizens Forum
- North Somerset Council
- North Yorkshire Citizens Advice and Law Centre
- Northampton Partnership Homes
- Northern Housing Consortium
- NUS-USI (National Union of Students-Union of Students in Ireland)
- Older People's Commissioner for Wales
- Paragon Housing Association
- Parkinson's UK
- Personal Finance Research Centre
- Pontypridd Land Society
- Power Circle
- Public Voice
- Queens Cross Housing Association
- Race Equality First
- Rethink Mental Illness
- Royal National Institute for Deaf People
- Royal National Institute of Blind People
- Scottish Federation of Housing Associations
- Single Parents Support and Advice Service
- South Seeds
- St Andrews Environmental Network
- St Giles Trust
- Stepchange Debt Charity
- Stirling District Citizens' Advice Bureau Ltd
- Stop Climate Chaos Cymru
- Sustainable Wales
- Tai Pawb
- THAW Orkney
- The Action Group
- The Archbishop of Wales
- The Bevan Foundation
- The Coproduction Network for Wales
- The Cottage Family Centre
- The H&A Group
- The Mentor Ring
- The One Planet Centre
- The Welcome Centre
- Thirteen Ltd
- Thomas Pocklington Trust
- Tir Natur
- Trefnu Cymunedol Cymru / Together Creating Communities
- Trowbridge Pantry
- Tunbridge Wells Borough Council
- Wakefield and District Housing
- West Suffolk Council
What does the Government say?
A spokesperson for the Department for Energy Security and Net Zero said: "We continue to keep all options under review for those most in need."