Government says energy bill payers’ strike campaign is ‘extremely irresponsible’

The government has said a campaign for energy customers to strike and refuse to pay the rising tariffs is “extremely irresponsible”.

A campaign group called Don’t Pay says 70,000 people have so far committed to cancel their gas and electricity direct debits in protest at rising costs.

The government’s energy price cap, set by regulator Ofgem, is currently set at £1,971 per year for an average household – but is expected to rise to well over £3,000 from October 1.

There are also warnings that prices could go even higher in April 2023, to around £3,700 at current rates.

Don’t Pay, founded by a group of people concerned about rising bills, said the number of people agreeing to the pledge is doubling each week.

“Our politicians and the oil and gas companies have designed an energy system that only drives money and profit upwards, regardless of human costs,” said a Don’t Pay spokesperson.

“Many of us are already struggling to pay our bills as we see energy companies make record profits. That can’t be right and we don’t accept it.

“If the government and energy companies refuse to intervene, ordinary working people will. Together we will enforce a fair price and the government and oil and gas giants will have to sort it out among themselves.”

According to campaign group End Fuel Poverty, around 8.5 million households are expected to end up in fuel poverty by the end of 2022.

The rise in fuel prices is largely driven by a surge in global demand following the reopening of economies after Covid-19, and by supply constraints caused by the war in Ukraine.

But record profits made by energy companies such as British Gas owner Centrica have sparked outrage and led to accusations that some companies are cashing in on a crisis.

The government has been urged to take further action on top of aid already announced by former Chancellor Rishi Sunak – but nothing new has been revealed as ministers focus on the Tory leadership contest.

Currently, the government has announced a £200 temporary discounted loan on autumn energy bills for domestic electricity customers, which will be automatically repaid over the next five years.

There will also be a £150 non-refundable tax credit for households in England in council tax classes A to D, plus a £144m discretionary fund to support certain households not already eligible for the reduction.

A government spokesperson said: “This is highly irresponsible reporting, which will ultimately only drive up prices for everyone and affect personal creditworthiness.

“While no government can control global gas prices, we are providing £37 billion in assistance to households, including £400 off energy bills, and £1,200 in direct aid to the most vulnerable households to help with living costs.”

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