Thousands of ‘energy bill martyrs’ including a Church of England curate say they will stop their payments this winter as forecasts showed bills c
Thousands of ‘energy bill martyrs’ including a Church of England curate say they will stop their payments this winter as forecasts showed bills could surge to £4,700 a year.
Up to 75,000 have pledged support to Don’t Pay UK, a civil disobedience campaign urging people to cancel energy bill direct debits.
At the same time, a poll shows rising anger with what some see as the failure of politicians to address a crisis facing millions of households who will struggle to feed their families, keep the lights on and stay warm.
Polling by Public First found most Britons expected a boycott of bills or taxes, while a third said there was a risk of public protests echoing the poll tax riots in the early Nineties.
Forecasts emerged over the weekend suggesting typical annual bills could rise 270 per cent in a year – driven by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine – taking them to £4,700 from April.
Up to 75,000 have pledged support to Don’t Pay UK, a civil disobedience campaign urging people to cancel energy bill direct debits. Picture: file image
Don’t Pay UK hopes to recruit one million members by October if the Government fails to support households facing financial ruin while oil and gas giants’ revenues soar.
Should the protest go ahead, the so-called energy bill martyrs risk being taken to court and face extra charges, a black mark on their credit record and being forced to have prepayment meters installed at their properties.
Signatories include the Reverend Mo Budd, 35, a Church of England curate from south London, who said: ‘Members of the Church of England are not traditionally known for taking a direct-action approach to political or social crises. However, the scale of the cost of living crisis demands a different response.’
She told The Sunday Times: ‘None of us want to break the law or get into trouble with our energy providers. But if we do nothing, vast numbers of people will have no choice but to default on their energy bills because they simply cannot pay them.
‘As a person of faith, it is my duty to act in solidarity with the most vulnerable in my community.’
Public First found 54 per cent believed households would refuse to pay bills or taxes, while 33 per cent expected disorder on the streets.
A majority – 61 per cent – felt there were likely to be more households being disconnected, with a high proportion expecting a rise in homelessness, begging and crime.
Worryingly for the Government, some 43 per cent think it is not taking the cost of living crisis seriously, with 55 per cent saying ministers could do more to help. James Frayne, founding partner of Public First, said: ‘Fear about rising costs is growing daily and with it anger about politicians’ failure to address it. If politicians don’t come up with something very big very quickly they’ll lose all public support and never get it back.’
The official price cap on energy tariffs, which is set by the regulator Ofgem, put typical annual bills at £1,277 in the first three months of this year. This rose to £1,971 on April 1 and new analysis suggests it may jump to £3,687 from October 1.
The figures come from energy consultancy Auxilione, which predicts a rise to £4,400 in January and £4,700 in April. It said: ‘Over the last 24 hours we have been comparing our values with other analysts who seem to be in the same position as us – disbelief.’
Ofgem said such predictions should be treated with ‘extreme caution’.
The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy said the Don’t Pay UK protest was ‘irresponsible’ and it was up to energy firms to deal with customers who refused to pay their bills.
It comes as activists threaten to blockade Parliament for weeks in protest against plans to expand production of North Sea oil. The group Just Stop Oil claims the disruption from October 1 could be Britain’s biggest ever campaign of civil disobedience.
A Government spokesman said: ‘We will not bend to the will of activists who naively want to extinguish North Sea oil and gas. Doing so would put energy security at risk, and simply increase foreign imports while not reducing demand.’