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Millions of families face ‘very difficult winter’ as prices and energy bills go up, admits minister

·3 min read
Millions of families face ‘very difficult winter’ as prices and energy bills go up, admits minister

Millions of families face a “very difficult winter” as prices rise, energy bills go up and cuts to Universal Credit hit, a Cabinet minister admitted on Tuesday.

Asked if axing the £20 boost a week to Universal Credit, brought in during the pandemic, should be rethought given the crisis in the energy sector which could affect millions of households, Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng told LBC Radio: “I fully appreciate that it’s going to be a difficult time.

“We have got very high prices, particularly in energy, and my job is to try to protect consumers as best as I can from those high prices.

“That’s why I’ve said we are going to keep the energy price cap.”

Kwasi Kwarteng said: ‘I fully appreciate that it’s going to be a difficult time’ (REUTERS)
Kwasi Kwarteng said: ‘I fully appreciate that it’s going to be a difficult time’ (REUTERS)

However, the current price cap of £1,138 a year for standard tariffs will rise to £1,277 on October 1.

The £20 uplift to UC will also officially end on 6 October, with some people receiving their last payment with the boost at the end of September.

The furlough scheme is also being withdrawn at the end of this month.

A 1.25 percentage point increase in National Insurance also comes into force in the spring.

Appearing on BBC Breakfast, Mr Kwarteng was asked about the worries for families who may be choosing between heating their homes and putting food on the table due to rising National Insurance, rising fuel costs and a cut to Universal Credit.

He said: “You’re right to mention the National Insurance price tax rise, but of course that kicks in in April, so it’s not strictly a winter issue.

“You’re also right to say that we face a global energy spike in terms of prices. But I’ve said that there are mechanisms in place now to protect consumers, I’ve been very clear that the energy price cap is staying even though some energy companies I read today are asking for it to be removed, I’ve been very clear that that’s staying, so we’re protecting customers there.

“We’ve got the warm home discount, we’ve got winter fuel payments, which are again focused on the most vulnerable customers. So, we’re completely focused on helping vulnerable customers through this winter, particularly with regard to energy prices.”

Pushed on the issue of Universal Credit, he said: “It’s a difficult situation, it could be a very difficult winter.”

Mr Kwarteng later admitted there would be families this winter who would have to choose between eating and heating their homes.

Mr Kwarteng was appearing on ITV’s Good Morning Britain when host Susanna Reid told him families would face “the choice between heating their homes and staying warm or eating, parents who may forego meals in order to feed their kids”.

She said: “You need to be able to offer them some hope.”

The Business Secretary replied: “You’re right, and that’s why I’m very keen to keep the warm home discount and also there are other winter fuel payments that we’re looking at.”

Asked whether he had asked Chancellor Rishi Sunak to raise the warm home discount, he said: “We have discussions about the Budget, and you will see what happens in the Budget. I can’t possibly pre-empt or anticipate what will be in that Budget ahead of time, you’ll appreciate that.”

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