Half of UK households face fuel poverty soon if government doesn't intervene, energy boss warns

Voters are concerned the Tory leadership hopefuls are not taking the crisis seriously enough due to a lack of intervention, as Political Correspondent Carl Dinnen reports

Half of UK households could be plunged into fuel poverty in January, a senior energy firm boss has warned as he urged the government to intervene now.

EDF Energy's managing director warned Britons face a “dramatic and catastrophic winter” ahead of the increase in the energy price cap on bills due to be announced on Friday.

Experts have predicted energy bills could hit £6,552 by next April after a spike in gas prices added nearly £500 to the forecasted price cap.

Downing Street has ruled out offering immediate extra help under Boris Johnson’s government and said any major financial decisions will be postponed until either Liz Truss or Rishi Sunak start work as prime minister.

With nearly two weeks before the new prime minister takes office, critics say action is needed now instead of further leadership debates between Ms Truss and Mr Sunak, as they prepare to take part in the latest Tory hustings in Birmingham on Tuesday.

Amid the stark warnings, Tory leadership frontrunner Ms Truss has still not revealed how she plans to help the most vulnerable if she were to win the keys to Number 10.

Tory leadership frontrunner Liz Truss was asked four times about how she would help the most vulnerable pay their spiralling energy bills this winter

EDF managing director Philippe Commaret told ITV News he is "very concerned" for customers and said the level of support the government has provided doesn't nearly go far enough.

“What we face in January is that more than half of the UK households will be in fuel poverty," he said.

“Which means that more than 10% of their disposable income will have to be invested to pay for their energy bills.”

Mr Commaret said EDF is launching a campaign to help its customers cut bills with energy-saving measures, and offer more support, but the scale of the problem means further government intervention is needed.

“We face, despite the support that the government has already announced, a dramatic and catastrophic winter for our customers,” he earlier told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.

Single mum Kiara Dolan said the looming bill hike is like a 'dark cloud' hanging over her. Credit: ITV News

Britons are already feeling the impact of the spiralling cost of living crisis, with many fearing they will have to choose between eating and heating during the winter months.

Kiara Dolan, a single mother to a six-year-old, said the looming energy bill price hike feels like a "dark cloud" hanging over her.

She told ITV News she feels "stressed" just at the thought of trying to keep up with payments.

"It’s like a dark cloud because I suffer with depression as well so that’s not going to help," she said. "It’s just a scary time because it’s going to go up and up and up.

"It's going to get to the point where everybody’s going to be in debt, even people that are working."

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Tory leadership hopefuls Ms Truss and Mr Sunak have come under increasing pressure to reassure households - but the foreign secretary has been criticised for having little plans to help people pay their bills.

Though lagging behind in the polls, Mr Sunak's vision has been clearer. He has pledged to remove VAT from energy bills and provide direct financial assistance to pensioners and those on the lowest incomes.

Ms Truss, on the other hand, has promised to cut green levies but has not said how she will help the most vulnerable in society.

What did we learn about Liz Truss' tax plans at Tuesday night's hustings?

“What I can’t do today is announce a full future budget, but I can assure you I really understand the pressures people face," she told broadcasters.

Regulator Ofgem will announce the new level of the price cap on Friday, with energy industry consultants Cornwall Insight warning that households will face an 80% rise in bills going into the winter period.

Energy prices are tipped to hit £3,554 from October, then rise to £4,650 from January.

This means that between October and April – which includes the coldest months of the year – the average household will pay an equivalent £4,102 per year for their gas and electricity.

It would be a massive jump from today’s £1,971 - which is already a record high price - and much higher than the £1,138 seen last winter.

The war in Ukraine and the economic isolation of gas-producing Russia, combined with surging energy demand following the easing of coronavirus restrictions around the world, has driven up prices and caused uncertainty in international supply.

Downing Street has insisted there is no need for consumers to panic and “households, businesses and industry can be confident they will get the electricity and gas that they need over the winter”.