GORDON Brown has called for energy companies that refuse to offer lower bills to be temporarily brought into public ownership.

The former Prime Minister also suggested voluntary energy cuts while the weather is good, in a bid to prevent rationing over the winter.

His intervention comes as Chancellor Nadhim Zahawi and Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng hold crisis meetings with providers including Centrica, the owner of British Gas, RWE, E.ON, SSE and National Grid.

Though their ability to take any meaningful action is limited. Talk of a possible windfall tax has been reined in, with Tory leadership hopeful Liz Truss making clear she would not support a further levy on the industry.  

Instead, the discussion with electricity generators will focus on investment, wholesale prices and security of supply.

In his article for the Guardian, Mr Brown said immediate action was needed: “Time and tide wait for no one. Neither do crises. They don’t take holidays, and don’t politely hang fire – certainly not to suit the convenience of a departing PM and the whims of two potential successors.

“The energy cap has to be suspended before 26 August, the date on which an approximately 80 per cent increase in our energy bills is expected to be announced. 

“The Department for Work and Pensions computers, which adjust universal credit and legacy benefits, have to be reprogrammed in the next few days if help is to be given to all who need it when prices rise on 1 October. 

“Voluntary cuts in energy usage – good for our green agenda – should, as has happened in Germany and France, be agreed upon now when the weather is good if we are to prevent rationing later when the weather turns bad."

Mr Brown said that the government should nationalise companies that were unable to keep prices down, comparing it to the actions taken by his government during the financial crisis. 

He said before taking that step, the government should offer guaranteed loans and equity financing but “if this fails, then, as a last resort, operate their essential services from the public sector until the crisis is over”.

Mr Brown said a “watertight windfall tax on energy companies and a tax on the high levels of City bonus payments” could help pay for these measures. 

“For if we could remove the opportunity to avoid or opt out, as we did when imposing the windfall tax on privatised utilities in 1997 and the banker bonus levy of 2009, we could raise not just £5bn but as much as £15bn. This would be enough, for example, to give nearly 8 million low-income families just under £2,000 each.”

It is not clear if the comments from the former Labour leader have been approved by the current Labour leader. 

Sir Keir Starmer is currently on holiday, with the party promising a new plan to be unveiled early next week.

Meanwhile, energy consultancy Auxilione has now predicted that bills could reach more than £5,000 next year. 

They said Ofgem could be forced to raise the price cap to £5,038 in April.

Because their prediction was based on wholesale market figures, Auxilione said there was little energy companies could do to try to bring prices down and said there was “little appreciation [of] just how impossible that task is”.

Nevertheless, speaking before his meeting with the providers, Mr Zahawi said he expected more from the firms: “They haven’t changed anything they’re doing, they haven’t had any increase in their input costs at all, but they’re getting a much higher return because of the unusually high gas price because of Putin.”