Gordon Brown is demanding an emergency budget to address the “financial timebomb” that “will explode” in October and leave half of the UK’s population in fuel poverty, causing “a humanitarian crisis”.
The former Labour prime minister said Boris Johnson, Liz Truss and Rishi Sunak must agree an emergency budget this week otherwise “parliament should be recalled to force them to do so.”
Failure to act will condemn “millions of vulnerable and blameless children and pensioners to a winter of dire poverty” said Brown in a hard hitting column for the Observer.
More than 4 million UK households will spend a quarter of their income on energy this autumn, according to the Observer, with the average energy bill forecast to be around £3,600 this year. In March the average annual bill was around £1,200. Last week the Bank of England predicted the UK will enter a lengthy recession this year with inflation set to pass 13%. The measures taken by the government to help households with rising energy bills has failed, according to a report commissioned by Gordon Brown.
In the Observer, he writes: “A financial timebomb will explode for families in October as a second round of fuel price rises in six months sends shockwaves through every household and pushes millions over the edge.”
Researchers from York University estimated that April’s 54% increase in fuel prices would trap 27 million in 10m households in fuel poverty. Brown said the new report he commissioned – carried out by Donald Hirsch from Loughborough University – shows: “Now 35 million people in 13m households – an unprecedented 49.6% of the population of the United Kingdom – are under threat of fuel poverty in October.”
Gordon Brown says ‘parliament should be recalled if PM, Truss and Sunak don’t meet’
The former prime minister – who was Tony Blair’s chancellor for a decade before entering No 10 – said Johnson, Truss and Sunak “must this week agree an emergency budget. If they do not, parliament should be recalled to force them to do so.
“For if nothing is done before yet another fuel price rise hits in January, the fuel poor could rise to 39 million people in 15m households – 54% of the country, with big regional variations ranging from 48% in London to 60.8% in Wales and 62% in Scotland.”
Brown said 80% of “our country’s lone, pensioners and large families will be in fuel poverty” given the scale of the energy price hikes.”
He continued: “The reason the poverty problem is worsening so fast is the unravelling of the June budget, where ministers not only underestimated the coming year’s average energy price rise by around £500, but announced flat rate payments that, by taking no account of family size or special needs, did least to compensate larger families and the disabled.”
On Sunday’s BBC Radio 4’s The World This Weekend, Gordon Brown said it will become “a humanitarian crisis” and that there is a “vacuum of leadership” at the heart of government.
Both the prime minister and chancellor Nadhim Zahawi are currently on holiday and Brown said: “There is nobody at the centre of government considering these problems and the detail that is necessary and at least taking the action that has got to be taken in the next few days if we are going to avoid this crisis.”
Two months ago, Brown called on Johnson to force global action to deal with rising prices and food shortages, saying “any sensible government” would be trying to get world leaders to find solutions.