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7 Aug, 2022 13:03

UK is facing Dickens-style poverty, ex-PM warns

Gordon Brown has called on the authorities to approve an emergency budget amid skyrocketing fuel prices
UK is facing Dickens-style poverty, ex-PM warns

People in Britain are facing “a winter of dire poverty” amid skyrocketing energy costs, former UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown said on Saturday, urging the government to approve an emergency budget.

According to the Labour politician, the continued increase in fuel prices places “35 million people in 13m households – an unprecedented 49.6% of the population of the United Kingdom,” in risk of fuel poverty in October. Calling the situation a “financial timebomb,” he added that “there is nothing moral about indifferent leaders condemning millions of vulnerable and blameless children and pensioners to a winter of dire poverty.”

This is why, Brown said, outgoing PM Boris Johnson, along with the Tory leadership candidates, former Chancellor Rishi Sunak and Foreign Secretary Liz Truss, “must this week agree an emergency budget.”

“If they do not, parliament should be recalled to force them to do so.” He added that if nothing is done, another fuel price rise in January will leave 54% of the population in fuel poverty.

The former prime minister said the scenes he has witnessed in his home county of Fife in Scotland remind him of things he read about from the 1930s – undernourished children, “pensioners choosing whether to feed their electricity meters or themselves,” and nurses having “to queue up at their food bank.”

Poverty is “hitting so hard” that charities are unable to ease the burden on people, Brown said, adding that “Britain is creating a left-out generation of young boys and girls,” whose childhoods “are starting to resemble shameful scenes from a Dickens novel.” The ex-PM vowed to fight “to renew the child poverty reduction target this government shamefully abolished.”

His stark warning of the looming “dire poverty” echoes Truss’ recent remarks about the “tough winter” Britain now faces.

According to the latest report from the Bank of England, inflation will soar to 13% in October, while GDP growth is slowing.

“The United Kingdom is now projected to enter recession from the fourth quarter of this year,” the regulator said.

The typical annual household fuel bill is expected to rise to around £3,500 from October, three times higher than last year. The real household post-tax income “is projected to fall sharply in 2022 and 2023, while consumption growth turns negative,” the Bank of England said.

The energy crisis in Europe has been exacerbated by the sanctions on Moscow over the Ukraine conflict and a decrease in Russian natural gas supplies. While the UK is not directly dependent on Moscow for fuel, it is still suffering from rising energy and cost-of-living prices.

Even before the Russia-Ukraine conflict, British consumers saw sharp increases. The price cap announced by energy regulator Ofgem in early February, which went into effect in April, marked a 54% rise from the previous rate.