A crisis measured in kilowats

Government inaction is pushing millions into fuel poverty

Despite the upbeat claims and Tweets from the likes of Priti Patel, Dominic Raab and Liz Truss, not to mention Jacob Rees-Mogg, asserting that we have never had it so good, there’s not much that’s gone right for the government over recent months. Now, as their bleak winter edges towards spring, it appears that even when a mounting crisis is not necessarily all down to this government’s actions or inaction, the fates appear to conspire.

Gas prices soaring by a staggering 250%, five UK energy firms going bust in just a few months and millions of UK households moving into fuel poverty is not entirely down to the government. Increased demand across Asia, significant reductions in supplies coming from Russia, and the snowball effect of other global factors, means that energy havoc is being wreaked in the UK, the EU and worldwide. And, as ever, it’s those at the bottom of the chain who suffer most.

What can be said is that current UK policy is making a critical situation even worse. The UK is heavily reliant on gas, around half of which is imported. Half of the UK’s power is generated by gas-fired power plants and currently demand far exceeds ready supply. That’s how fragile the situation is. Recent governments have run down the country’s gas storage capability, and we now have less than 1% of Europe’s stored gas in the UK. 

So what can this government do? To begin with, the government needs to grasp the real situation facing families across the UK and make energy prices a serious priority.

The first practical step must be to cut VAT on energy bills, as touted during the Brexit campaign, which would bring instant help to those on the edge of survival. Chancellor Rishi Sunak is said to be reluctant to do this, as it would slice £2bn from tax revenues, but there can be no faith in the government’s “levelling up” promises unless such measures to alleviate fuel poverty are implemented.

There are other options, some easier to pursue than others. But above all, ministers must immediately stop defending the indefensible, about parties, sleaze and corruption, and come clean, resolving these issues one way or the other, and start focusing on getting the country out of this mess.

They should move to scrap expensive white elephant projects such as the plan for a new royal yacht. The royals don’t want it – no one does, save for the delusional few dreaming of a return to the glory days of Rule Britannia and the Empire.

The money saved will be a drop in the ocean but might convince at least some that this government can finally get its priorities right.

It is not just the prime minister but the whole government that must act and put an end to lies and hollow promises and start focusing on what matters most. Because as it stands, heating and electricity costs will rise by another £600 within months.

No family should be forced to choose between heating and eating, but at present, that is precisely what is happening.

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