April Fools Day saw the biggest rise in gas and electricity prices in living memory. On average, we are now paying almost £60 a month extra.
Martin Shaw, Chair East Devon Alliance www.midweekherald.co.uk
Even before this huge hike, many people in East Devon were finding it very difficult to keep their homes warm.
Money Saving Expert Martin Lewis had warned that some people could ‘freeze or starve’ as soaring fuel prices combine with relentless general inflation – likely to reach 10 per cent this summer – to make life impossible for those on modest incomes.
Just imagine you’re trying to keep a family with young children together on low wages, like too many people in Devon, or on benefits, which Rishi Sunak – a multimillionaire married to a billionaire, who own together three huge homes and four cars – already cut by £20 per week last year.
Or a widow or widower relying on the state pension to keep your retirement home comfortable.
Sunak has chosen to give people only minimal protection from the energy price rise, offering only a one-off grant of £150, i.e. a couple of months’ increases, to people living in lower council-tax-band properties.
Boris Johnson has defended oil and gas producers like Shell and BP who are making huge windfall profits, and is refusing to take the obvious step of taxing these gains to subsidise people’s bills.
Compare France, where the government has restricted rises to 12 per cent, not the astronomical 54 per cent we are having to pay.
On top of this, Sunak and Johnson have chosen to go ahead with this week’s National Insurance tax rise and have forced local government to implement council tax rises to pay for social care.
Despite the Ukraine war making energy prices even worse, Sunak offered no further relief on energy bills in his recent statement. It seems as though he has no conception of what these rises mean for so many people.
Meanwhile the energy providers are doing their own bit to add to the misery.
I wrote a couple of months back about British Gas trying to flog me a ‘cheap deal’ which was even worse than the price-cap rate.
Now I find that, even though my account is substantially in credit, their app won’t let me reduce my monthly payments.
Effectively they’re forcing me to pay up front for the energy they think I’m going to consume at the monstrous new prices.
Possibly, energy providers are worried that by the time of the next scheduled increase in October – which is likely to be closer to another £100 per month on top of this month’s rise – customers simply won’t be able to afford to pay if the companies haven’t collected extra money in advance.
The government’s offer for October, when the weather gets colder again, is a ‘loan’ of £200, to be repaid when gas prices fall. By then, £200 is likely to be less than one month’s energy bill for the average household.
East Devon Conservatives are also adding insult to injury, pushing out a glossy leaflet to households (paid for with Russian oligarch money, one wonders?) which fails to even mention the cost of living.
Instead of pressing their government to do more about the £60 per month people are having to pay, MPs Neil Parish and Simon Jupp are bravely hammering East Devon District Council for putting an extra 50p or £1 on parking charges – modest increases which most Conservative councillors supported!
Local businesses are indeed under threat, but not from EDDC. As well as facing the same increased energy costs as consumers, they are worrying that their customers simply won’t have cash to spend, or even to fill up their cars to drive into town.
This is the worst cost of living crisis in a century: when will our MPs take notice and make sure the government acts?