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Church backs calls for windfall tax to help tackle ‘crisis of fuel poverty’

The Church of Scotland has called on the UK Government to introduce a windfall tax on energy companies (Jacob King/PA)
The Church of Scotland has called on the UK Government to introduce a windfall tax on energy companies (Jacob King/PA)

The Church of Scotland has joined those calling for a windfall tax to be introduced to help tackle the “crisis of fuel poverty across the UK”.

The General Assembly of the Church of Scotland overwhelmingly backed a motion calling for action from the UK Government amid concerns about the impact soaring bills are having on the poorest in society.

The motion, brought forward by Rev Mike Goss, was passed by 288 votes to 83.

Rev Goss, the minister of Barry Parish Church, which is linked with Carnoustie Church, Angus, spoke about the “huge scale of the money flowing into energy companies” at a time when “fuel poverty is a reality for people in our communities”.

His comments came as Jonathan Brearley,  chief executive of the energy industry regulator Ofgem, told MPs he expects the energy price cap to rise to somewhere “in the region of £2,800” in October.

This will result in further energy price hikes for households across the country, with Rev Goss saying: “We need to recognise that our energy industries have been doing extremely well out of the current crisis, but fuel poverty is a reality for people in our communities, particularly for the poorest.”

He continued: “It is clear that the huge scale of the money flowing into energy companies is far beyond what they anticipated in their plans this year and next at a time when the poorest are being hurt by the bills that they face.

“We need to square that circle and we need to do that urgently, not wait for (bills to increase in) October or next year.

“There needs to be an urgent settlement to provide care for those who will literally be choosing to heat or eat.

“A one-off windfall tax is a means of being able to redistribute these huge profits in order to address the crisis of fuel poverty across the UK.”

Finance Secretary Kate Forbes branded the expected rise in the energy price cap as “unimaginably horrendous”.

She tweeted: “What’s it going to take for the UK Gov to act – UKG has the powers over energy regulation, the budgetary powers to substantially increase funding & the social security powers to help people BUT Tory Ministers sit on their hands as people struggle.”

SNP MP Alan Brown demanded action from Chancellor Rishi Sunak to help those struggling with rising power bills, describing the situation as a “national emergency”.

He said: “Households are already suffering from higher energy bills and food prices. This latest update that the energy price cap is expected to rise again this October to around a staggering £2,800 will be a devastating hammer blow to families.

“Many people are struggling to make ends meet and are being forced to turn to food banks and make the impossible choice of having to choose between heating or eating.

“Yet despite the grim warnings, the Tory Government has been caught like a rabbit in the headlights with its refusal to act. The reality is the Tories are more focused on saving the Prime Minister’s skin rather than supporting families.”

Calling for action from the UK Government, he said: “The SNP has been clear that Rishi Sunak must bring forward an emergency Budget.”

Liberal Democrat MP Alistair Carmichael also demanded action, saying: “We need to treat this as the once-in-a-generation crisis that it is.

“There is still time to change course before winter comes but the Government must get off their hands and recognise that this is not something that can be dealt with by half measures. We need an emergency Budget now.”