Energy bill crisis: Public willing to pay more tax to support poorest

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Voters are willing to pay more in tax to fund direct support for low-income households facing soaring energy bills, new polling reveals today.

THE majority of people say they back targeted Government financial assistance over energy costs, even if it means higher taxes.

The finding was revealed at the launch a major new joint project between Citizens Advice, the Social Market Foundation and Public First to develop long-term policy plans to protect households from high energy prices.

The laws creating the cap on energy bills must be renewed next year, so the project will build consensus around the measures that should be put in place after that.   

The joint project is being advised by senior politicians, industry leaders and campaigners.

Over the next nine months, the group will develop energy bill support policies that offer households certainty and protection in an age of high and volatile energy prices.  Wholesale energy prices are likely to remain well above their pre-2021 average for the rest of this decade, meaning big household bills will be a long-term political and economic challenge.

The project will use extensive polling and focus group work to explore public attitudes and expectations around help with energy bills, which are expected to exceed £3,000 a year by this autumn.

The first polling data from the project show that high prices have made voters more open to contributing towards support for people with low incomes.

The poll found:

  • Overall, 52% of the public say they support the Government providing direct financial support to help poorer households with their energy bills –  even if this meant taxes rise as a result. Only 22% said they opposed this approach.
  • In a finding that could be significant for the Conservative leadership contest, the polling also found that older voters are the most supportive of paying more to provide support with energy bills.
  • Among people aged 65 and over, there was 59% support for paying more tax to fund help with bills. Among 18-24s, support was 44%.
  • Men were more likely than women to support Government providing direct financial help with energy bills.

Across the country, support for help with bills was highest in Scotland (60%) and London (57%). Support was lowest in Yorkshire & Humberside (43%). (See notes for full regional breakdown.)

Dame Clare Moriarty, Chief Executive of Citizens Advice, said:

“We’re hearing every day from families stretched past breaking point by mounting energy bills. The present crisis is piling on pressure, but to truly protect people we need a long-term solution and not a quick fix .

“That’s why as politicians set out their priorities, tackling energy affordability has to be front and centre of the agenda.

“By joining forces with voices from across the spectrum, we hope to develop workable solutions that will put people and their needs at the heart of future decisions.”

Rachel Wolf, Founding Partner of Public First said:

“People are frightened, and increasingly desperate, about their energy bills. Beyond the current crisis, the current byzantine patchwork of policy interventions is impossible to navigate and leave too many without support.

“We need a solution that will last. This project will find a serious, costs solution that maintains public consent and we’re proud to be working with Citizen’s Advice on it over the next year.

James Kirkup, Director of the SMF, said:

“Politicians rushing to promise unfunded tax cuts risk missing the issues that most voters really care about, and high energy prices are at the top of the public’s list. This research shows is that people grasp the scale of this problem, even if politicians do not.”

“Across politics, business and civil society, there is an appetite to end the short-term, mix-and-match approach to energy bill support and develop sensible long-term solutions to protect people in an age of volatile prices.  Politicians from across Parliament, industry leaders and charities are already supporting our search for a new approach, and we hope many more will join the consensus in the months ahead.”

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