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Friday, December 1, 2023

Tees Valley Mayor: Government needs to move to ‘covid footing’ amid energy cost ’emergency’

Tees Valley Mayor Ben Houchen says the Government needs to move to a ‘covid footing’ in its response to the spiralling cost of energy.

The Local Democracy Reporting Service asked Conservative Mr Houchen what steps the Government should take to help struggling residents and businesses.

On Friday energy regulator Ofgem announced the highest energy price cap on record with the cap for the average household increasing by 80% to £3,549, starting in October.

But experts have warned it could go much higher, topping £7,000 next year amid rising wholesale prices and the continued conflict in Ukraine which shows no sign of ending.

Mr Houchen, who has previously spoken out over the cost of living crisis being faced by many, said: “The vast increase in the price of energy is already having a huge impact on households and businesses.

“Supporting millions of people across the country will rightly be the number one priority of the incoming Government, no matter who wins the [Conservative] leadership contest.

“I have already called on the Government to hold an emergency budget in September ahead of the price cap change and I’m confident that this will happen.

“The Government will need to move to a covid footing and provide support similar to that of furlough and business support funding that we saw during the pandemic.”

He added: “In the long term the only thing that is going to bring down the cost of energy is if we have a more secure domestic supply that includes North Sea gas, new nuclear, hydrogen, more offshore wind and other renewable forms of energy.

“Over the last few months I’ve spoken at length with ministers about the cost of living and I will continue to do so until local people get the support they desperately need.”

Mayor of North of Tyne Jamie Driscoll

One of Mr Houchen’s ‘Metro’ mayor counterparts, Labour’s Jamie Driscoll, who represents the North of Tyne, said “enough was enough” and has called for a nationalisation of the energy industry, which some critics say will reduce competition.

Mr Driscoll said: “This is an emergency. We saw in covid that we can act when we need to.

“Exceptional times warrant exceptional measures.

“Not only will we see families fall into unpayable arrears, we’ll see businesses fold and people out of work, we’ll see our public services paying their budgets to energy firms, and social enterprises will close their doors just when vulnerable people most need them.

“Right now we need an emergency budget. But we do not need to pay hundreds of billions to energy suppliers.

“Nationalise the energy supply companies, nationalise the distribution networks, nationalise the wholesale suppliers and electricity generators.

“And do it properly, with citizens’ panels scrutinising them, with local authorities advising regulators, and workers from those industries on the board.

“We can only have energy security when we own it.”

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