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

© REUTERS 2109kwasi

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.”

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The furlough scheme is also being withdrawn at the end of this month.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

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