The energy bill crisis is a political choice. Let’s make a better one.
The Conservatives have been so busy trying to cling on to power, they almost forgot about the energy bills crisis hitting people in Streatham. After last week’s Ofgem announcement that average households will pay £690 more from April, their last-minute response doesn’t touch the sides of what is needed.
£350 doesn’t even make up for the £355 the average pensioner household will lose out on this year, let alone the £1,040 cut to Universal Credit. And no matter how our Klarna Chancellor tries to spin it, the bulk of this buy now, pay later loan scheme is funded by the taxpayer, leaving us on the hook further down the line.
All but the very richest will be left feeling the pinch but the impact on the most vulnerable will be absolutely devastating, with the number of households facing fuel poverty rising to one in four. The energy bill increase comes on top of rises to national insurance, cuts to Universal Credit, soaring housing, food and other living costs, and alongside further real terms cuts to pension and social security.
The gas crisis is a global one but there’s no denying some countries are faring considerably worse than others. Even with the Government’s last-minute loans and council tax rebates, we will see average energy bills rise by about 30 per cent. In France, bills are only going up by four per cent because they own the company that supplies their energy (and lots of ours).
On the same day the Government voted against Labour’s proposal for a windfall tax on oil and gas companies – who are doing very well out of the current crisis – Shell reported a 14-fold profit increase. From 2011-2020, the UK’s big six energy companies paid out £23 billion to shareholders – six times more than they paid in tax.
While energy prices were low, suppliers siphoned off huge profits. Now energy prices have risen, we’re being asked to cover them. The Tories failed to fix the roof while the sun was shining and now it’s raining.
Letting more people fall into fuel poverty and leaving millions to struggle with soaring energy costs while allowing wholesalers and suppliers to make massive profits is a political choice.
We could make a better one by keeping the cap, taxing fossil fuel companies and taking energy companies into public ownership to deliver the affordable bills and renewable transition the private sector has failed to provide.
This article was first published in the South London Press on the 11th February 2022.