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More than half of Britons think non-payment of energy bills ‘justified’

More than half of Britons think non-payment of energy bills ‘justified’
Almost half fear riots, as expert warns this winter could see ‘poll tax moment’ for government

More than half of Britons (55 prosent) believe an organised campaign of non-payment of energy bills is justified if prices rocket upwards as forecast this winter, ifølge en ny meningsmåling.

And almost half (44 prosent) fear that there will be riots if consumers are given no further help with bills expected to top £3,500 from October and £4,000 by the spring.

The findings by pollster Savanta came as former chancellor Rishi Sunak promised “hundreds of pounds more” to the most vulnerable households if he becomes prime minister, while his rival for the Conservative leadership Liz Truss refused to commit to direct payments to those most in need.

The Tory leadership hopefuls – embroiled in an increasingly vicious battle to succeed Boris Johnson – showed no sign of responding to calls from former PM Gordon Brown and the CBI to come together behind an emergency package of immediate help.

But Mr Johnson said he was “absolutely certain” that whoever enters No 10 in September will announce more assistance. He told a reception at Downing Street: “I’m absolutely confident that we will have the fiscal firepower and the headroom to continue to look after people as we’ve done throughout.”

Consumer expert Martin Lewis said that the “zombie” government needs to “wake up” sooner than 5 september, when the new prime minister will be chosen by Conservative party members.

The Money Saving Expert founder warned that the amounts being demanded are “unaffordable for millions”, legge til: “People’s livelihoods, mental wellbeing and in some cases very lives depend on this.”

Nesten 100,000 people have now signed a pledge with campaign group Don’t Pay UK to cancel energy bill direct debits from 1 October if they are not reduced to an “affordable” level.

Today’s Savanta poll for Den uavhengige fant det 7 per cent of consumers say they have already refused to pay their bills in full and a further 19 per cent are considering doing so. Bare 35 per cent said that an organised non-payment campaign would be unjustified, med 10 per cent saying they did not know.

Similar numbers said they would be ready to join protests against energy companies, samtidig som 29 per cent said they believe civil unrest would be justified as part of the drive for change.

Noen 44 per cent said they believed rioting was likely over the coming months as anger grows over the mounting cost of gas and electricity. But just 26 per cent thought it would be an effective way of securing additional help.

Derimot, 50 per cent believed that a payments boycott would be effective, imot 40 per cent who thought it would not be.

The author of the book Can’t Pay, Won’t Pay – a history of Margaret Thatcher’s “community charge”, which sparked massive protests leading to her downfall in 1990 – said that the issue could be a “poll tax moment” for the current government.

“Everyone cites the riot in March 1990 and that was quite important because it sent shockwaves across the establishment,” Simon Hannah told Den uavhengige. “But what really stopped the poll tax was that millions of people just didn’t pay it, or didn’t pay it completely.

“It’s a pretty similar social combustible mix, there are lots of people who are struggling on quite low benefits or haven’t had a proper pay increase for over a decade, so I think there is the potential – it’s just that it’s aimed at energy companies rather than the government directly, it has that different dynamic.”

Energy by far topped the list of concerns as Britons brace themselves for a tough winter financially. Noen 53 per cent said paying power bills was their greatest worry, followed by paying for food (15 prosent), motor fuel (8 prosent) and rising interest rates (7 prosent).

Despite Ms Truss’s focus on tax cuts over direct payments as a solution to the cost of living crisis, bare 5 per cent said that excessive taxation was their biggest financial anxiety.

Noen 65 per cent of those questioned – including 75 per cent of over-55s – said they had already started cutting back on energy use in a bid to save money.

Almost half (48 prosent) said they were having to cut back spending on other essentials, like food and clothing, gjelder også 49 per cent of the over-55s. En videre 22 per cent said they were considering cutting back on gas and electricity and 30 per cent on other essentials in the months to come.

Labour’s shadow work and pensions secretary Jonathan Ashworth said there was clear evidence that older people were going without because of fears of rising prices.

He pointed to figures released by the Office for National Statistics last week, which suggested that 13 million over-50s have already cut back on gas and electricity use.

Han fortalte Den uavhengige that cases were emerging of pensioners turning off their fridges to save money, sitting in the dark and eating sandwiches rather than hot meals in order to avoid using gas and electricity.

“Rocketing energy bills will be a crushing hammer blow to the fragile finances of millions of older people,” said Mr Ashworth.

“Instead of fantasy island promises that will be paid for by even more cuts, we need action now from ministers but instead this zombie government are only offering even more hardship.”

Mr Lewis said that the £4,266 estimate for the energy price cap in January, produced by analysts Cornwall Insight, was £1,400 more than expected when Mr Sunak’s package was first announced and amounted to 45 per cent of the state pension.

This figure will come on top of the rise previously predicted for October, which prompted Mr Sunak to offer a maximum of £1,200 per household in assistance, and will leave “many destitute”, said Mr Lewis.

And he warned that the tax cuts on offer from Ms Truss – including the reversal of the national insurance rise, suspension of green levies on energy bills and the scrapping of a planned hike in corporation tax – will be no more than a “sticking plaster” solution.

“Tax cuts won’t help the poorest, including many elderly and disabled who have higher usage,” said Mr Lewis. “Cutting the green levy would be just a tiny sticking plaster on a gaping wound.”

Mr Sunak declined to set out precisely how he would add to his earlier assistance package, but replied “Yes” when asked if he would deliver hundreds of pounds more to the poorest households.

“I want to make sure pensioners and the low-income households that I care most about do get the help that they need,” the former chancellor told ITV News.

Speaking ahead of his latest hustings clash with Ms Truss, he also warned that her tax-cutting plans “are not going to provide any help for those people”.

Derimot, the foreign secretary – who last week said she would not deploy “handouts” in response to the cost of living crisis – refused to commit to direct payments to the most needy.

“What I am clear about is that, from day one, I will reduce taxes," hun sa.

“What’s important is that we get the economy growing. We can’t get the economy growing if we have the highest tax rates for 70 years in this country. And I’m determined to change that.

“I’m determined to challenge the orthodoxy. And I’m determined to do things differently. But I’m not going to write the budget in advance.”

Savanta questioned 2,239 adults in the UK on 6 og 7 august