Energy bills, the Big Six and the scandal of people dying of cold in their own homes

130925energyAs I stepped out into the -2.5C cold yesterday morning (January 16), on my way to a meeting, I thought, “People will die because of this”.

My next thought was that the government – which is perfectly able to prevent such fatalities – simply wouldn’t care.

How right I was.

This weekend, people will die of cold in their own homes – in this, the world’s fifth-largest economy – because they cannot afford to pay the high prices charged by energy companies.

Though the cost of fuel to the Big Six has tumbled, they have not cut prices to match. And, rather than make them do so, the Government has turned its fire on clean, renewable power.

It is a great, if underpublicised, scandal. Every seven winter minutes, it is authoritatively calculated, an older person dies from the cold. Even relatively mild January temperatures increase heart attacks and strokes and now – with winter finally taking hold – Public Health England is officially advising pensioners to turn up their heating.

But they can’t afford to. Nearly two-thirds of over-65s told a survey last week that they would be likely to cut back on their energy usage instead, with more than half apparently struggling to pay their bills. And it’s not only the elderly. More than five million British households live in fuel poverty and a higher proportion have to devote more of their incomes to energy than in any other EU country except Estonia.

This year should have brought some relief. The wholesale price of fuel – which makes up nearly 50 per cent of household energy bills – has crashed over the past two years: the cost of gas to the suppliers has halved. But bills, which previously shot up like a rocket, have only drifted down like a feather.

Until last May’s general election, the Big Six companies said they could not cut prices for fear of being caught by Ed Miliband’s planned price freeze. Immediately after the unexpected Tory victory, the new Energy Secretary, Amber Rudd, wrote to ask them to do so – the response was minimal while their costs have continued to plummet.

The Big Six point out that they buy their fuel over extended periods, evening out fluctuations. But last summer the Competition Commission concluded that they were overcharging households by a staggering £1.2bn a year. An unofficial survey suggests it is now almost £3bn.

You would expect top-level outrage, wouldn’t you? But the Prime Minister merely said last week that bills were “not falling as fast as I would like”.

Source: Energy bills, the Big Six and the scandal of people dying of cold in their own homes | Voices | The Independent

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8 thoughts on “Energy bills, the Big Six and the scandal of people dying of cold in their own homes

  1. Dez

    Good to know the Camoron thinks the costs are not falling as fast as he would like…..so that is what unfettered outrage looks like from someone who is supposed to lead millions of the population with fairness and integrity to prevent them being totally screwed by these overseas criminals. The overpaid poodles who are supposed to kick butt against such criminal activity are useless, powerless and probably looking at their future positions as advisors on the board of these same companies. The Government are obviously in bed with this situation by their lack of interest or maybe its the loss of tax income having lost out to reducing fuel pump prices……which are again very very slow in reducing despite huge market oil price collapses…..another con for the Cons.

  2. mohandeer

    According to the Competition Commission the Big Six Energy Companies are overcharging households by a staggering £1.2 billion, an unofficial survey put the figure at nearly £3 billion. Electrique De France (EDF) must be laughing their socks off, getting richer by the day while our elderly die of cold by the day. Cameron’s words last week regarding the exorbitant profits made by foreign fuel suppliers, (bills) were “not falling as fast as I would like”. ??? So Dave, you don’t want to miff Energy companies and don’t want to help Britain invest in Green alternative energy (which would create jobs) but you would let our elderly and disabled die if it was “as fast as I would like”? At what point did the Corporations begin their governance of this country? More than five million British households live in fuel poverty and a HIGHER PROPORTION HAVE TO DEVOTE THEIR INCOMES TO ENERGY THAN IN ANY OTHER EU COUNTRY EXCEPT ESTONIA, in this, the fifth largest economy in the world. Despite illegal economic sanctions against Russia, the elderly do not freeze to death. What kind of incompetent government allows this scandal, known to them to exist for over five years? This isn’t just incompetence it’s deliberate negligence. They say money talks, in the UK the poor man’s money says “goodbye”, the rich man’s money says “hello”.
    Time for an alternative government, one which instead of being ruthless in dealing with the most impoverished and vulnerable, had the wherewithal and incentive to be ruthless with the Corporates, billionaire tax evaders and disproportionately favourable Corporate welfare funding which is in excess of £120 billion.
    Time for the Tories to rewrite their slogan to reflect their real ideology as “The Party for the Wealthy”
    Funding for a war we didn’t need to be involved in based on a non existential threat to “protect British people” is just window dressing. That money could have been used to “protect British people” instead, from dying of cold – a “real” threat at home.

  3. Robert Fillies

    He would say that, wouldn,t he. The price of fuel is not a concern if you are a multi-millionaire.

  4. paulrutherford8

    People [like myself & Mrs R], living in rural areas who have no access to mains gas are very, very fortunate.

    Our heating is provided by kerosene [heating oil], which is delivered by tanker whenever we run low and place an order. We are able to pay weekly or monthly if we wish, but [in our case], we save up the cash and pay the delivery man when he’s filled our tank in the back garden.

    On Friday this week [15th Jan], after paying him for our 1,005 litres of oil, he said “Thanks very much… here’s a calendar for you, and I’ll see you sometime around August.” He’s probably right!

    The point is that we pay the CURRENT market rate for our oil. Because the price has dropped, our bill also dropped… to 26p a litre. Last time we ordered oil, it cost us about 36p a litre, if memory serves correctly. We thought that was cheap, as it was a reduction on the previous charge.

    So… the cost of our heating and hot water has dropped to around £10.50 a week, from around £15+.

    If the oil distributors can do this, I cannot understand why the ‘big 6’ can’t do the same sort of thing… after all, they are buying the oil to fire [some of] their power stations at a rate which is very likely less than our local merchants.

    The difference is that our local supply company want happy customers. The Big6 want happy shareholders and don’t care about their customers.

    I know heating oil is cheaper in some areas of England [we’re in Wales], but we’re very happy… as are all our pensioners in the village. They also use kerosene for heating.

    1. Dez

      And the oil suppliers, in the less rural areas, are actually very competitive unlike the big 6 who are acting like a cartel with immunity from Government interference.

  5. mrmarcpc

    Another chapter of Thatcher’s legacy that’s still haunting us, flogged back to us what we already owned and got away with it, we have no control over our energy and the costs, they can charge whatever the hell they like and the government doesn’t stop them because they’re shareholders and get a nice, little tickle from it, something needs to be done about this, this lot won’t, only hope is the EU doing anything about it, but I doubt it.

  6. amnesiaclinic

    Big, big changes when the hydrogen fuel cell takes off. Cheap fuel with pure water as the waste product. The changes throughout the world will be incredible and game-changing.

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