Saturday, 21 January 2012

5% cut in energy bills is nowhere near enough

All 6 energy companies have now announced a reduction in prices of around 5%. So much for claims they don’t act as a ‘cartel’! But anyone who thinks this will have anything other than a marginal impact on the scandalous levels of fuel poverty should think again. Gas and electric bills have gone up 100% in the last 5 years. There remain one million households in Scotland, for example, paying more than 10% of their entire income on energy – the official definition of fuel poverty. That's a fourfold increase in a decade. With bills soaring and incomes plummeting Scotland has a huge fuel poverty crisis on its hands. And like every other crisis it has its casualties. Professor John Hills from the London School of Economics, commissioned by the UK Government to examine the scale of the problem, concluded that 27,000people will die this winter as a result of chronic fuel poverty. This is more than are killed on Britain’s roads annually. At the same time the industry regulator OFGEM has accused the power companies of profiteering and launched an investigation. Company profits rose by 733% between June and October as they made £125 per household compared to £15 earlier. The Scottish Socialist Party has been campaigning against this outrage for several months calling on Governments at Westminster and Holyrood to snap out of their lethargy and recognise the full extent of the crisis. They need to bring bills down much further than 5% and they need to increase the winter fuel allowance paid to pensioners and other vulnerable groups. They also need to invest in household energy efficiency schemes to match those in Scandinavia. But ultimately it is only when this industry is returned to public ownership that guaranteeing adequate supplies of heating and lighting to everyone will be the industry's priority rather than profiteering and pandering to corporate greed which leaves millions out in the cold.

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