SKIPTON MP Julian Smith has described the energy crisis as financially 'equally if not more challenging' than that suffered by residents during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Speaking at a meeting in Skipton of North Yorkshire County Council, ahead of the announcement of the new Prime Minister on Monday, he sought to reassure councillors that whatever happened, there would be a 'massive intervention' from government to help people cope with soaring energy bills - set to increase by 80 per cent in October.

Mr Smith, who was told of the 'enormous' increases in energy bills for local authorities, said it would be important to have details of how small businesses, schools and councils were struggling, and urged people to get in touch with his office so he could start contacting ministers as soon as the new Prime Minister was in place.

He told yesterday's meeting that the situation in government with the leadership contest had 'not been ideal' but he sought to reassure councillors that there had been 'significant work' going on by leadership teams and officials at Whitehall and that he was confident there would be announcements 'very quickly'.

He told the meeting: “I can’t prejudge what is going to happen, but whatever the noise of the Tory leadership debate, there is going to be a massive government intervention.

“This, in my view is at the level of, if not more financially challenging than the Covid period and these interventions will have to happen right across the economy.

“Although the timing of this leadership election to the Conservative party has been far from ideal, there has been significant work in the background by current ministers and officials in Whitehall.”

Cllr Simon Myers, chairman of Craven District Council and a member of the executive of North Yorkshire County Council, told Mr Smith of the challenges faced by local authorities with the heating of public buildings, such as schools, and urged him to fight for funding for councils.

Cllr Myers said he agreed that the threat on small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) in Craven was massive, but that local authorities also faced enormous increases in their energy bills.

"l could give you examples of people's massive energy bills doubling, and we at Craven District Council will be doing what we can to make sure there are warm spaces for those who need them.

"The direction of travel is undoubtedly going to be one of austerity. Local authorities are the front line of services, the extra cost of heating schools, leisure facilities and council buildings will be enormous. We are going to need help from central government if we are not going to cut back on essential services."

Mr Smith, who is backing Rishi Sunak in the leadership contest, also warned people against taking out two or three year fixed term contracts with energy companies until the level of government intervention was known.

"A lot of energy companies are trying to tie people into two or three year contracts at a very high rate. We need to encourage people not to tie in with these contracts."