Sunday, 16 October 2011

Irate Energy Customers At Boiling Point

This letter appeared in yesterday's Scotsman and Herald

OFGEM's revelation that the big 6 energy firms have increased their profits 8 fold since June will undoubtedly make millions of irate customers even more furious. After all these profits come as the Government tells us there are now one million Scots households living in fuel poverty,i.e. unable to afford the £1,345 now demanded of them for gas and electricity.
And the reasons for their plight are plain to see. Energy bills have doubled in the past 5 years, whilst wages, benefits and pensions have not.
The combined bill for gas and electricity now also includes 20% VAT which means we are paying some of the highest energy prices in the world. And all this at a time when living standards are plummeting.
As readers of this newspaper are well aware the Scottish Socialist Party has been campaigning on this issue for many months. Like millions of Scots we believe fuel poverty is an affront to our society. People are going without the heating they need with bitterly cold weather round the corner. Mothers are foregoing evening meals in order to provide for their children instead. Cold related deaths are set to soar.
We demand the Government acts to cap these bills, that anyone paying more than 9.95% of their income should receive an immediate winter fuel allowance to prevent them toppling into fuel poverty.

The Government must also reverse the cuts made at both Westminster and Holyrood to programmes designed to support people in these difficult times. Chancellor George Osborne may wish to reflect on the wisdom of his decision to cut the winter fuel allowance paid to pensioners. And Alex Salmond should likewise reverse his decision to withdraw help to those trying to install more efficient heating systems and improved household insulation.
The timing of the SNP Government's decision earlier this year to abandon the promise it made in 2007 to eradicate fuel poverty in Scotland by 2015 plainly couldn't be worse. Yet if this objective is ever to be delivered then the industry clearly must be returned to public hands, only then will the provision of essential heating and lighting to everyone again be the uppermost objective, ahead of multinational corporate profiteering.

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