With no concrete policies from a caretaker UK government on how to tackle the energy price crisis, the vacuum has been filled with a number of ideas from prime ministerial hopefuls, opposition parties and others. Here are the main proposals:
Boris Johnson’s government
With its pledge to not make any major policy or fiscal decisions, Downing Street is limited in what it can do, while Johnson himself has been largely absent for the summer. Last week, the prime minister did join a meeting with energy firm bosses, after which Johnson said he would be “urging” the electricity sector to keep bills low.
The Conservative leadership frontrunner has focused her attention on tax cuts, pledging to reverse the recent increase in national insurance. The only specific help on energy bills she has proposed is to suspend green levies, which would save the average household about £150 a year. Truss has not ruled out further help, but has repeatedly stressed her preference for tax cuts, although these would disproportionately help higher earners, and do nothing for pensioners or those not in work.
The former chancellor has in part pledged to stand by assistance he announced while still in government, and said last week that he would cut VAT on energy bills, at a cost of about £5bn a year, pledging a similar sum again on targeted help for poorer households.
Under a plan formally announced late on Sunday, the party would spend £29bn with a six-month scheme that would freeze energy prices at the current cap, before it goes up in October. This would assist all households, even richer ones, but Keir Starmer has argued it would bring certainty and help to curb inflation, thus helping people with other bills. It would be paid for in part by an expanded windfall tax on energy producers.
In a similar scheme – one announced a week earlier – the party called for what the party’s leader, Sir Ed Davey, called an “energy furlough scheme”, that would freeze bills and also be financed in part by a wider windfall tax.
An updated version of the plan called for what the party called a “double freeze” on cost of living issues – stopping energy price rises and an inflation-based increase in rail fares, which is due to come into force in January.
The party is expected to formally announce its proposals later this week. They are expected to call for energy prices to be not just frozen but reduced to the level of last October, before the price cap rise in April. The other element will be a proposal to permanently nationalise the main energy supply firms, allowing a low price cap and assisting with longer-term green energy efforts.
Announced last week in the absence of a formal Labour proposal, the ex-PM’s plan, outlined in the Guardian, would mean a halt in any further rises in the price cap, negotiations on prices with individual companies over bill levels, and the possibility of temporary nationalisation for energy supply firms who could not keep bills down, modelled on what happened to some banks after the 2009 financial crash.