Martin Lewis warns of ‘protests, strikes and riots’ if energy bills rise further

Rishi Sunak has forestalled risk of civil unrest with package of support but more help will be needed, says Money Saving Expert

Ben Chapman
Thursday 30 June 2022 11:32 BST
Money Saving Expert’s Martin Lewis (Kirsty O’Connor/PA)
Money Saving Expert’s Martin Lewis (Kirsty O’Connor/PA) (PA Archive)

Martin Lewis has warned that there is a risk of protests, strikes and even riots if energy bills continue to rise and the government does not provide more financial help.

The personal finance expert said the threat of civil unrest had been “forestalled” by a package of help announced by the chancellor in May.

However he said a further recent rise in wholesale energy costs means bills are now expected to surge even higher, meaning more help would be required this winter.

Speaking at the Tony Blair Institute’s Future of Britain conference, Mr Lewis clarified his previous statement that the cost-of-living crisis risked causing civil unrest in the UK, stating: “Some people read civil unrest as meaning riots. It's not the same thing.

“Civil unrest means massive non-payment of energy bills. It means protests. It means strikes. That's what civil unrest means. And it possibly - at the extreme - means riots.

“I think [the government] probably forestalled that for now, with the up to £1,200 pound per household [financial support] that came in May but we need to be under no illusions of... the visceral danger when people who have always been their families breadwinners have the ability to provide for their families taken away from them.

“That is a genuine threat to all elements of society, including those who can afford the cost of living crisis.”

He added that, at the time, the support announced was the right approach, but average bills are now expected to jump by an aditional £240 this winter, to more than £3,000.

“£240 a year extra for those on the lowest income isn’t just not something they can snaffle up in the middle of the cost-of-living crisis.

“So I think, in October, unless we have a big reversal [of energy prices] in a very short amount of time... more is going to be needed.”

Mr Lewis also revealed that the chancellor had called him four days before his spending announcement in May to discuss his plans to help struggling families.

Mr Lewis said he had a "sneaking suspicion" that Sunak had granted a £150 payment to people on disability benefits on the back of his request during that phone call.

"When I said about people with disabilities [Sunak] said 'well OK, it's difficult, but we'll do something'. That was the phrase."

Mr Lewis said that this year was “certainly” the worst year since he founded Money Saving Expert in 2000.

The 2007 financial crash “was not as bad, the pandemic could have been as bad but the rescue packages that came in for stalled that pretty quickly,” he said.

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