Martin Lewis blasts 'zombie government' for not addressing 'cataclysmic' energy bill rises

Soaring energy bills are affecting struggling households - Shehab Khan reports on how the Tory leadership candidates are responding to calls for more radical action

Money Saving Expert Martin Lewis has condemned the government for acting like “zombies” over the energy crisis, as he warned that the "cataclysmic" rise in bills is similar in scale to the Covid pandemic.

The consumer champion said the country is facing a “national crisis coming on the scale of the pandemic” and urged the two Tory leadership candidates to set out more radical proposals to address it.

He suggested that the government could act if it wanted to but is currently paralysed by "internecine warfare" between Liz Truss and Rishi Sunak vying to replace Boris Johnson as prime minister.

Martin Lewis warned that rising energy bills will be 'catastrophic' for many households unless urgent support is announced

“For every £100 direct debit you currently pay, in October you will be paying £181, and in January you will be paying £215, and that’s on top of the rises we had in April,” he told ITV's Good Morning Britain.

“That is a cataclysmic rise for households; millions of households will simply not be able to afford it. “When we get to January, a typical bill will be £4,266 a year, many pensioner households pay more than that because they have the heating on more for understandable reasons. “That is 45% of the full new state pension and a bigger proportion of the old state pension. We’re not talking mortgages. We’re not talking rent. We’re talking energy bills. This is absolutely catastrophic."

He claimed ministers are "not willing to work together in what we have right now is a national crisis coming on the scale of the pandemic."

Can the government really wait for a new prime minister to decide how to approach this crisis? Shehab Khan has more

The energy bill warning comes as the government rejected calls for further help on energy bills until a new prime minister was in place in September.

The outgoing PM, along with Mr Sunak and Ms Truss, have faced increasing pressure to introduce cost of living measures now, instead of waiting another month.

Martin Pridgeon, who has Multiple Sclerosis, has to pay hundreds of pounds a month just to get by, as his medication is not available on the NHS. "It makes me feel sick inside - I do not know where to turn with it," he told ITV News. "I have got help from friends and family, but they have got to pay the bills as well." Addressing such concern, Mr Sunak, the former chancellor, announced a £15bn support package for consumers in May, including £400 for every household.

But, as wholesale prices have since threatened to wipe out the impact of that package, he has recently said that he would seek government "efficiency savings" to fund the support if he were to become PM.

Want a quick and expert briefing on the biggest news stories? Listen to our latest podcasts to find out What You Need To Know

Ms Truss - who has not committed to any increase in benefits - plans to reverse the recent increase in national insurance, and to temporarily suspend green levies on energy bills.

She said on Wednesday that her priority would be on boosting "energy supply", lowering prices to help customers struggling with soaring energy bills, as well as slashing taxes. "We need to get more gas out of the north sea, we need to look at fracking in parts of the country that support that, and we need to get on with bringing those supplies on stream," she said. "We need to make sure that the budget is right for the situation we face," Ms Truss added, after refusing to spell out the details of any future autumn policy announcements. Pushed on whether she would come to a consensus with Mr Sunak on intervening over the energy crisis now, the foreign secretary insisted she would take action on "day one".

"We have the highest taxes we have had for 70 years in this country, we are threatened with a recession - what we need to do is keep taxes low, attract investment," she added.

"I will do all I can to make sure that energy companies are delivering."

Ms Truss went on to dismiss any more taxes - including a windfall one on energy companies - as a "Gordon Brown style solution".

'The answer to our problems is not more taxes,' Liz Truss said

While acknowledging that Mr Sunak has laid out some details on how to help struggling households, Mr Lewis urged both candidates to set out more radical and "accurate" plans.

He said: “What we’re facing here is a financial emergency that risks lives. I accept the point that Boris Johnson is running a zombie government and can’t do much, but the two candidates – one of them will be our prime minister – they need to get together in the national interest to tell us the bare minimum of what they will do.

“We have some relative detail from Rishi Sunak saying he will look at the handouts he gave in May and increase them, but, unless he’s doubling them, and he needs to double them, it is not in proportion to what he did back in May.”

Martin Lewis urged more radical government intervention to help with soaring bills

Speaking about Ms Truss’s plans, he added: “I cannot believe the only proposal will be tax cuts, because many of the poorest, many state pensioners, many on Universal Credit, don’t pay tax so it will not help them and they simply cannot afford this £2,000-a-year or more year-on-year rise. “And getting rid of the green levy, which is a sticking plaster on a gaping wound… The green levy is typically around £150 off bills, we’re talking about a rise of thousands of pounds on bills.”

He went on to suggest that, by September, there will be an "enormous" amount of people who can't pay energy bills - or refuse to - when payment is due.

The comments come amid reports that energy sector bosses will take part in crisis talks with Chancellor Nadhim Zahawi and Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng on Thursday.

Gas and electricity bosses will be asked to submit a breakdown of expected profits and payouts as well as investment plans for the next three years, according to the Sun.