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Personal finance guru Martin Lewis has told the Government to urgently consider halting plans to raise energy bills in April. The MoneySavingExpert founder says it cannot wait until the spring Budget.
In a letter to Chancellor Jeremy Hunt, he warns that 1.7 million more people could be driven headlong into hardship if prices are not frozen.
Putting off a looming 20 per cent hike to the energy price guarantee (EPG) from April would be a “practical and fair” way to help people survive until bills shrink later in the year, he writes.
The letter says: “This cannot wait until the Budget – energy firms will need to know much sooner if the planned rise isn’t happening on April 1, or they are bound to have to communicate to customers that it is coming.”
He notes the move to raise prices was made when wholesale rates were predicted to be far higher than now. The underlying price looks set to be cheaper later this year than the current EPG rate of £2,500 a year for a typical household.
This gives the Government “significant headroom” for a postponement, while a lower EPG would also help reduce inflation, he argues.
Mr Lewis adds: “The damage to people’s pockets and mental health of another round of energy price rise letters is disproportionate.” Simon Francis, of the End Fuel Poverty Coalition, said customers faced a “cliff edge” as other support schemes end in March, meaning bills will rise by between 19 and 43 per cent, depending on the EPG.
Mr Francis said: “Keeping the EPG at current levels is the very least the Government can do.
“It has said it will target more support at vulnerable groups from April, but again this does not equate to the same level of help people have had this winter.
“Even that help has proven to be insufficient, with millions struggling in cold damp homes.
“The Government will also come under increasing pressure to help people with debt relief, especially in light of the obscene profits energy firms have been declaring.”
National Energy Action predicts the number of fuel-poor households will jump from 6.7 million to 8.4 million in April – nearly double October 2021’s figure of 4½ million.
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