Local MP, Theresa Villiers, has been keeping up the pressure for help for households who face difficulties as a result of the inflationary pressures now being seen around the world.
This is an issue she has raised in Parliament, most recently on 29th March, where she appealed to the Secretary of State for Business Energy and Industrial Strategy to work to find ways to bring down global energy costs. This was reported in Hansard:
The price cap, the cut in fuel duty and the warm home discount are providing vital help with bills, but will the Government commit to further action, domestically and internationally, to try to get energy prices down, so that we can help pensioners and other vulnerable groups?
My right hon. Friend is absolutely right to identify this as an issue. That is why we are working, not only in Government but across G7 partners, to ensure diverse sources of energy supply, which can keep prices down.
Speaking after the exchange in Parliament, Theresa said “I understand that increases to the cost of living will be a crucial issue for constituents for the foreseeable future. The re-opening of trade and business around the world after the long Covid shutdown has led to sharply increasing energy costs.”
“These problems are being worsened by Russia’s appalling attack on Ukraine. It is right to switch away from buying Russian hydrocarbons but, in the short term, this will create even more pressure on oil and gas prices. So that is why I asked the Business Secretary about diversifying our energy supplies. Expanding renewables will be crucial for energy security.”
Around 37% of the UK’s electricity is now generated by renewables and the Government’s recently updated Energy Strategy sets out plans on meeting our energy needs in the medium and long term.
Theresa concluded, “The Government has brought forward a substantial package of help included a significant cut in fuel duty to help vulnerable households. But I will continue to hold Ministers to account on these matters.”
The Government's measures to help with the cost of living include:
- A rise in the National Living Wage will mean an extra £1,000 in the pockets of millions of people.
- The Universal Credit (UC) taper rate has been cut and work allowances have increased. This means that working people on low incomes keep more of their benefits as they extend their working hours. This change represents an effective tax cut worth £2.2 billion in 2022-23 for working households who receive UC.
- The National Insurance personal threshold will rise from £9,500 to £12,570 from July 2022. This will bring it in line with the equivalent income tax personal allowance and represents the largest increase in a personal tax threshold in British history. It is equivalent to a £6 billion tax cut for nearly 30 million workers and worth over £330 a year starting in July. This is the largest single personal tax cut in a decade.
- The Chancellor of the Exchequer has cut fuel duty by 5% for a full year across all rates. This is the biggest fuel duty reduction in decades. Moreover, the decision to freeze fuel duty for the twelve consecutive years prior to this latest cut had already saved the average driver over £1,900, compared to the pre-2010 escalator the Conservatives inherited from Labour.
On energy costs, the Government has reaffirmed its commitment to the energy price cap. This will remain in place and is protecting around 15 million customers. A three-part plan to help with household fuel bills worth £350 per household has been announced:
- A £150 cash rebate for homes in Council Tax bands A-D – equivalent to 80 per cent of all households, helping both lower and middle-income families;
- A £200 ‘smoothing’ rebate on energy bills for all households, to be paid back over five years at £40 per year – starting from April 2023;
- £144 million of discretionary funding for local authorities to support households not eligible for the council tax rebate.
Ministers are increasing the Warm Homes Discount to £150 and extending eligibility for the scheme by one third to three million households. The programme will also now last longer than previously planned and will continue until at least 2025/26. The Government intends to raise the spending envelope from the current £351 million to £475 million (in 2020 prices) per year. Ministers will also consult on reforms to the scheme to better target fuel poverty in the future.
A new £500 million Household Support Fund has been set up for vulnerable households who need extra help over the winter months with the cost of essentials such as energy bills. This has been available to councils in England since October and it allows them to distribute support within local areas to directly help those who need it most. The programme has been extended by the Chancellor from April until the end of September, through an additional £500 million announced in the Spring Statement.